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R. Kelly Facing Two New Federal Indictments For Sex Crimes

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  • R. Kelly was arrested on Thursday in Chicago after he was hit with over a dozen federal charges including child pornography and enticement of a minor.
  • A second federal indictment in New York accused the singer of other crimes, including kidnapping, transportation for prostitution and sexual exploitation of a child.
  • His attorney said Kelly was not surprised by the charges, but claimed that these accusations are an attack on his client.

Federal Indictment in Illinois

Singer R. Kelly was hit with two federal indictments accusing him of criminal sexual activity in Illinois and New York.

A 13-count indictment from the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois includes charges of child pornography, enticement of a minor and obstruction of justice. Kelly was arrested on Thursday for these counts. 

According to this indictment, Kelly “did knowingly employ, use, persuade, induce, entice and coerce a minor, namely Minor 1, to engage in sexually explicit conduct for the purpose of producing a visual depiction of such conduct” on multiple occasions. The charges also involve four other minors between the ages of 13 and 17-years-old, whom Kelly had also allegedly engaged in sexual conduct with.

Federal Indictment in New York

On Friday, the United States District Court in the Eastern District of New York unsealed a five-count indictment against him. The charges here include racketeering, kidnapping, transportation for prostitution, forced labor and the sexual exploitation of a child.

The New York indictment says that Kelly made rules for his sexual partners, which included women and young girls. These rules included partners not being allowed to leave their rooms, not being allowed to look at other men, being forced to wear baggy clothing when they were not accompanying Kelly to events, and being forced to refer to Kelly as “Daddy.”

Kelly’s Attorney Responds

In a statement, Kelly’s attorney, Steve Greenberg, confirmed that Kelly was arrested in Chicago while walking his dog. He says the charges appear to “largely be the same as old conduct previously alleged.”

“Mr. Kelly was aware of the investigations and the charges were not a surprise,” Greenberg added. “He had already assembled a team of outstanding federal litigators. He and his lawyers look forward to the truth coming out and to his vindication from what has been an unprecedented assault by others for their own personal gain.” 

Kelly already faces over 20 sex abuse-related charges handed to him by Cook County in February and May. He is pleading not guilty to all of those charges. 

The charges, in this case, followed the release of a Lifetime docu-series, Surviving R. Kelly. The series featured interviews with accusers and their families and prompted a boycott of his music along with the hashtag #MuteRKelly. 

Kelly is expected to appear in a Chicago federal court on Tuesday for his arraignment for the new federal charges. No timing has been set for his appearance in New York. 

See what others are saying: (CBS Chicago) (Associated Press) (NBC New York)

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South Korea Confirms BTS Won’t Get an Exemption from Military Service

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  • On Thursday, South Korea’s Ministry of Defense said members of the K-pop band BTS will be required to serve in the military.
  • Some lawmakers had argued that BTS should be granted an exemption because of its massive influence.
  • The band’s oldest member, Jin, is expected to enter service sometime next year before he reaches the age deadline of 28-years-old.
  • The announcement comes as the South Korean military struggles with a dwindling active military population because of falling birthrates. 

BTS Will Serve in the Military

Thursday, the South Korean Ministry of National Defense announced that K-pop band BTS will be required to serve in the country’s military, ending more than a year of speculation over whether or not the band members would enlist.

The announcement comes as the defense ministry imposes stricter rules for exemption to South Korea’s mandatory military service. By law, all able-bodied men between the ages of 18 and 28 must enlist.   

Notably, the new rules will allow fewer people from industry and research sectors to be able to qualify for exemptions. The tighter regulations mean that besides BTS, no pop stars will be allowed to gain exemption status. 

“We came to review this system to reduce the number of exemptions in the first place, so we did not at all consider expanding exemptions.” Lee Nam-woo, chief of the Defense Ministry’s personnel welfare office, said Thursday.

“We also believe that military duty will not hurt the talents of popular performers so critically that they cannot perform anymore,” he added. 

Previously, award-winning classical musicians and athletes that have won medals in either the Olympics or the Asian Games have been exempted. Notably, this reduction to exemptions will not affect their ability to gain exemption status if they’ve won such awards.

Notably, however, while South Korea will reduce the number of exemption-qualifying games for athletes, if an athlete is on a team that ends up winning such an award, that athlete will still be able to obtain an exemption even if he didn’t play in the winning game. Before this, it became common practice for all athletes in a team to play for at least a minute to be able to qualify for an exemption.

Falling Birthrates Lead to Shrinking Military

Thursday, the South Korean Military Manpower Administration directly mentioned BTS in a statement following the Defense Ministry’s announcement.

“On the request that the exemption needs to be expanded to pop artists like BTS, which has raised national image,” an official said, “we decided not to waiver military service, considering the government position to enhance fairness and downsize the number of exemption due to manpower shortage.”

On the note of “manpower shortage,” South Korea is currently facing its lowest birth rates in recorded history. While a country needs a birth rate of 2.0 to signify a growing country, South Korea’s has fallen to 0.98 because of shrinking fertility rates and an increasingly large elderly population.

That has led to some fear surrounding the South Korean military and its ability to continue imposing pressure against North Korea. Currently, South Korea has about 600,000 active soldiers but by 2022, it projects that number will fall to 500,000. Over the next two decades, the ministry expects that number to shrink again by half. 

On top of that, June 2020, conscripts will only need to serve 18 months instead of 21. The shortened conscription time actually comes as part of a campaign promise made by President Moon Jae-in.

Amidst Controversy, BTS Promises to Serve

Despite over a year of debate among fans, lawmakers, and the military, for their part, BTS has said they will serve when the time comes.

“As a Korean, it’s natural, and someday, when duty calls, we’ll be ready to respond and do our best,” Jin told CBS Sunday Morning in April.

Jin, however, has been the subject of the most scrutiny. As the band’s oldest member, he will turn 27 next month, meaning under normal law, he will be required to enlist by next year at the latest.

Because BTS has brought massive international attention to South Korea and has contributed to $4.65 billion of the country’s GDP, many have wondered if that would be enough to exempt the band for military service.

Though presented as a debate over whether BTS could be granted exempt, the band seemingly served as a litmus test for whether exemptions could be extended to pop stars. 

In September, the Korean Ministry of National Defense said an exemption wasn’t possible.

In October, the band’s label, BigHit Entertainment, then said none of the band members would serve this year; however, that statement did not mean the members wouldn’t eventually serve. 

“The company believes military service is a duty,” BigHit told The Hollywood Reporter. We will try to show the fans the best of BTS until, and after, the members have fulfilled their service duties.”

Also last month, South Korea’s Minister of Government Policy Coordination said that the military should reflect the current times and asked for a “comprehensive review” to determine whether K-pop boy bands should also be able to get exemptions.

Fan Reaction

Regarding the enlistment, fans have been somewhat divided on this announcement. 

On one hand, some fans have said that because of the band’s massive influence, they should be exempted. Others, though avoiding a stance of whether or not BTS should serve, noted what they believe to be a double standard compared to athletes and other artists.

On the other hand, a lot of fans agreed that they should enlist because all South Koreans are expected to serve, those fans, also once again pointing out that BTS has said they will serve. 

“International fans who don’t understand mandatory military services have literally no right to interfere because their opinion is invalid,” one fan wrote. “Like it’s the government’s decision as the members are Korean citizens before idols. It’s basically their duty to serve their nation.”

See what others are saying: (CNN) (The Korea Herald) (Newsweek)

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Internet Reacts to Grammy Leaks, Nominations, and Potential Snubs

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  • Grammy nominations were released this morning, with Lizzo leading the count at eight.
  • The news comes a day after the nomination counts were believed to have been leaked on the Grammy’s website.
  • There were many questions surrounding song eligibility, seeing as Lizzo’s “Truth Hurts” was nominated several times, despite first being released in 2017.
  • There was also debate around potential snubs, like BTS, who did not get any nominations.

Nomination Counts Leak

Lizzo led Wednesday’s Grammy nominations as many had expected thanks to a suspected nomination count leak that happened a day before the official list was announced.

Lizzo earned eight nods, while Billie Eilish and Lil Naz X picked up six. Ariana Grande followed close behind with five. These numbers confirmed fan theories that the Grammys accidentally released nomination counts since they matched up with the information that appeared online Tuesday.

The Grammys website has pages for nominated artists. On those pages, you can see how many wins and nominations each artist has. As of yesterday, Grande had been nominated for six Grammy awards. For a period of time, however, fans saw that number increase to 11. Similar instances occurred for Taylor Swift, Lady Gaga and more. Many fans assumed that these totals reflected nominations that tat the time, had not been announced. 

The updated number accounts did not stay up throughout all of Tuesday. The numbers were eventually edited to show their correct totals. On Wednesday, after nominations were announced, the updated counts went live again.

Eligibility Questions

The leaks were not the only controversy surrounding the nominations. With Lizzo’s strong lead came questions about her eligibility for certain categories. Her eight nominations include Best New Artist, Album of the Year for Cuz I Love You (Deluxe), as well as Record and Song of the Year for “Truth Hurts.”

There are a number of reasons why Lizzo’s 2017 hit was eligible this year. When it comes to Song of the Year, the Grammys says a song can be considered “if it was first released or if it first achieved prominence during the Eligibility Year.” Since “Truth Hurts” didn’t climb the charts until this summer, it meets that criteria. 

It also meets standards because it had never been submitted for a Grammy in the past, and even though its first release was in 2017, it also appeared on the deluxe version of Lizzo’s 2019 album Cuz I Love You.

Many also had similar questions about Lady Gaga and the A Star is Born Soundtrack. The album, along with songs on it, received three nominations this year. It’s biggest song, “Shallow,” already earned itself two wins at last year’s ceremony, raising more questions about eligibility.

The answer is pretty straight-forward. The Shallow was released as a single for the film early enough to compete last year. The full album, however, was released later and only made the cut for the 2020 window. 

BTS and Taylor Swift Snubs

A lot of discussion on the nominations also centered around artists who were believed to have been snubbed from nominations. Many BTS fans were upset the band did not get any recognition from the Recording Academy. 

Their 2019 album Map of the Soul: Persona sold over four million copies and became the best-selling album in South Korean history. Many fans think this merits attention from the Grammys.

This is not the first time BTS fans have been upset by the way American award shows treat K-Pop music. Earlier this year, the MTV Video Music Awards nominated them in a controversial new Best K-Pop category instead of just nominating them in the major slots. 

Fans are not the only ones pointing out that BTS has had a crazy year in terms of commercial success just for it to not translate into Grammy nominations. Rolling Stone published a piece saying that the Grammys “failure to acknowledge K-pop at awards shows stands in stark contrast to the music industry’s day-to-day reality.”

Their report also noted that over the past year, major American labels have all worked to add a K-Pop act to their slate. Elias Leight, the author of the piece, said that this goes further than just BTS. He said that it shows the Grammys has a blindspot when it comes to acknowledging the market for international music. 

“The problem extends beyond BTS: American listeners are ranging more widely than ever before, increasingly enthralled by singers from South Korea, but also by artists from Nigeria, Colombia, and Spain,” he wrote. “But the Grammys, as per usual, lag behind.”

Another snub getting a lot of online attention is Taylor Swift’s seventh album, Lover, not getting nominated for Album or Record of the year. This is Swift’s second album in a row to not be nominated here, marking what some see as a lull for her and the Grammys. 

This lull came as a surprise to critics, though. Many expected Lover to be a rebound for her and thought she would get nominated in all the major categories. Swift did earn herself three nominations, but that still is not the comeback that some expected and that fans were hoping for. 

Swift’s biggest nomination for Lover is for Song of the Year. She is the only solo songwriter nominated in that category this year. Also at stake for Swift is one of her major records. When she won Album of the Year for Fearless, she was just 20 years old, becoming the youngest person to win the award. 17-year-old Billie Eilish is nominated this year, and would take the crown if she won.o

Women and the Grammys

Another element many are keeping an eye on is something that has long been a contentious point for the Grammys: Its inclusion of women, or lack thereof. 

In 2018 the Recording Academy got a lot of flack when only one woman won a televised award. That same year, Lorde was the only woman nominated for Album of the Year, but was also the only artist from that category not asked to perform during the show.

This year will be the first ceremony under the Recording Academy’s first female president, Deborah Dugan. Many are wondering if this will impact the show at all. 

As far as nominations are concerned, it appears good for women. Five out of the eight Album of the Year nominations belong to women.  Many of the most-nominated artists are also female, which could translate into more female wins and performances come show night.  

See what others are saying: (Rolling Stone) (Variety) (The Hollywood Reporter)

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Hollywood Exec Wanted Julia Roberts to Play Harriet Tubman in 1994, Says ‘Harriet’ Screenwriter

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  • In a recent interview and essay about the historical biopic Harriet, screenwriter and producer Gregory Allen explained that it took decades for Hollywood to support a film with a black female portrayed as an “action figure.” 
  • He explained an instance in 1994 where a studio exec loved the script, then suggested Julia Roberts play Tubman.
  • When someone said that Tubman was a black woman, the exec allegedly said, “That was so long ago. No one will know that.”
  • Allen said the climate in Hollywood recently changed, making Harriet possible, thanks to films like 12 Years a Slave and Black Panther. 

Exec Suggests Julia Roberts 

Harriet screenwriter and producer Gregory Allen revealed that in 1994, a Hollywood studio executive suggested that actress Julia Roberts should play the iconic black historical figure, Harriet Tubman.

In a Q&A published earlier this month and in a recent L.A. Times essay, Allen discussed the 25-year journey it took to release the biopic Harriet, which finally hit the big screen on Nov. 1 with Cynthia Erivo playing the slave turned legendary abolitionist. 

According to Allen, it was very difficult for a film like Harriet to be made with the right support in Hollywood years ago. He noted that it was especially challenging to find a studio that was ready to make a film that treated Tubman like an “action figure” rather than a “history lesson.”  

“Nobody in Hollywood wants to be an outlier. Hollywood has a herd mentality. There was no herd around the story of a former slave girl who freed other slaves..” he wrote. “All the people I pitched this to, submitted the script to, were asking themselves one question: ‘How do I sell this story to my boss, to a studio, to my financial partners?’”

“I was told how one studio head said in a meeting, ‘This script is fantastic. Let’s get Julia Roberts to play Harriet Tubman,’” Allen explained in the Q&A published by Focus Features.  

When the sole black person in the studio meeting pointed out that Tubman was a black woman, the executive allegedly replied, “That was so long ago. No one will know that.”

Hollywood Climate Changes 

Allen struggled for years to find a studio that would pick up the script, explaining in his Times essay, “What I realize now is that the film was not going to get made until the environment in Hollywood changed.”

The writer praised groundbreaking films like 12 Years a Slave and Black Pather for changing the game for black representation onscreen. 

“When 12 Years a Slave became a hit and did a couple hundred million dollars worldwide, I told my agent, ‘You can’t say this kind of story won’t make money now.’ Then Black Panther really blew the doors open,” Allen said in the Q&A. 

He also pointed out that doors opened thanks to widespread support for movements like #OscarsSoWhite, DiversityHollywood, and other fights over the lack of inclusion in film.

“It still took a few years more to get it made — packages fell apart, financing fell out, talent dropped out — but the important thing is there was no longer hostility to the idea,” Allen wrote. 

“As someone who has been in this business for decades, I am enjoying the warmth of the Hollywood climate change, and the diverse stories that are bathing in that sunlight, happy that Harriet’s other journey is now finally complete.”

See what others are saying: (Entertainment Weekly) (The Guardian) (Variety

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