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Justice Kennedy, the pivotal swing vote on the Supreme Court, announces retirement

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Justice Anthony M. Kennedy announced Wednesday that he is retiring from the Supreme Court, a move that gives President Trump the chance to replace the court’s pivotal justice and dramatically shift the institution to the right, setting up a bitter partisan showdown on Kennedy’s successor.

“It has been the greatest honor and privilege to serve our nation in the federal judiciary for 43 years, 30 of those years on the Supreme Court,” Kennedy, who is stepping down July 31, said in a statement.

Kennedy, 81, joined the court in 1988 and has been its most important member for more than a decade. The Californian, who was chosen by President Ronald Reagan, has cast the deciding vote on the court’s controversial Citizens United campaign finance decision, the constitutional right to same-sex marriage and the continued viability of affirmative action.

On almost every major issue that has faced the court in recent years, neither the court’s liberal, Democratic-appointed justices nor Kennedy’s fellow ­Republican-appointed conservative colleagues could prevail without his swing vote.

His decision likely will make Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. the central justice on the nine-member court. Roberts, 63, has shown himself to be well to the right of Kennedy.

Washington could be in for an epic battle over Kennedy’s replacement. While Senate Democrats lack the numbers to deny the seat to whoever Trump chooses, they will ratchet up the stakes of the choice.

It will be the first time since Justice Clarence Thomas replaced Thurgood Marshall more than 25 years ago that a new justice could radically change the direction of the court. Since then, new members added to the court have replaced justices of the same general ideology.

Kennedy is a courtly presence on the court, with a gentlemanly demeanor and a jurisprudence based on the respect the Constitution provides for individual liberty and dignity.

He was a compromise choice for Reagan, who had first nominated the more controversial conservative Judge Robert Bork for the position. The Senate voted him down.

Kennedy has been a disappointment to the right, which has been unable to forgive his vote to uphold the basic underpinnings of Roe v. Wade, which guaranteed a woman’s right to choose an abortion. And Kennedy has written each of the court’s major gay rights decision, including Obergefell v. Hodges, which said the Constitution requires that gay couples be allowed to marry.

Liberals came to value Kennedy because he was the best they could hope for. But Kennedy most often votes with the court’s conservatives: He is further to the right on law-and-order issues than Justice Antonin Scalia was, he is comfortable with the court’s protective view of business, and he shared the losing view that the entire Affordable Care Act is unconstitutional.

His belief that campaign finance regulation often violates free speech was exemplified in his authorship of the opinion in Citizens United, which has opened the door for an explosion of big money in elections.

Whoever Trump nominated to fill Kennedy’s seat will likely share those views, but not his liberal opinions on social issues.

Trump convinced evangelicals and other conservatives to support him based on the next president’s ability to shape the Supreme Court, a promise he has already begun to fulfill. Early in his term, he successfully place conservative Neil M. Gorsuch on the bench, and he could have the chance to fill more openings.

Of the court’s four liberals, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is 85 and Justice Stephen G. Breyer turns 80 this summer.

Gorsuch’s appointment returned the court to the status quo that existed before Scalia died. But a court without Kennedy would be a different place.

With Kennedy on board, a five-member majority struck down a Texas law that it said used protecting women as a pretext for making abortion unavailable, and the court continued a limited endorsement of affirmative action.

Many if not all of those holdings would be at risk in a court with five consistent conservatives, the oldest being 69-year-old Justice Clarence Thomas.

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Y&R Star Kristoff St. John Autopsy Report rule Heart Disease as His Cause of Death

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According to the autopsy report, Kristoff St. John was discharged from a mental health facility just 2 days before his death. The report says he was admitted after threatening to harm himself.

The report also states that St. John died from heart disease and alcohol abuse … according to a report from the L.A. coroner’s office.

The ‘Young and the Restless’ star’s official cause of death is listed as hypertrophic heart disease and is categorized as accidental, according to the report. The disease makes it difficult for the heart to pump blood and often goes undiagnosed.

As for the “accidental” label — that’s because St. John was apparently on an alcohol binge at the time of his death.

News broke last month that 52-year-old St. John was found dead at his home in San Fernando Valley. Law enforcement sources say one of the actor’s friends went to check on him and found his body. Police and paramedics responded, and pronounced him dead on the scene.

Another source that was close to St. John’s states the actor checked himself into UCLA Medical Center in January for depression issues, and he had just been released a few days before his death. Reports also states that St. John’s depression was partially linked to his son, Julian’s suicide in 2014. It also seems to be the likely trigger for St. John’s heavy drinking at the time of his death.

As you know, around the 3-year anniversary of Julian’s suicide in 2017, St. John’s allegedly threatened to take his own life with a gun … and cops placed him under a 72-hour hold for psychiatric evaluation.

St. John had played Neil Winters on ‘The Young & the Restless’ since 1991 — earning 9 Daytime Emmy Award nominations for the role. He also won 10 NAACP Image Awards.

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Wendy Williams Reveals She’s Getting Treatment for Addiction

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Wendy Williams just made a very personal revelation — she’s now getting round-the-clock help to deal with addiction issues.

She made a very emotional announcement Tuesday on her talk show … revealing she’s currently living in a sober house somewhere in the Tri-State Area — of NY, NJ & CT — and has been for some time now. Wendy teared up quite a bit as her audience listened intently.

Wendy talked about battling cocaine addiction in the past, but never sought treatment to stay clean … until now, that is. She didn’t specifically say what substance she’s addicted to now. Wendy added she has a 24-hour sobriety coach, and spoke lovingly about the “brothers and sisters” in addiction with whom she’s living now.

She took an extended leave from her show back in mid-January and didn’t return until a couple of weeks ago. As you know … she also told viewers last year she was suffering from Graves’ disease before taking a 3-week hiatus.

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Attorney Gloria Allred says Third Sex Tape Surfaces of R. Kelly

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Another sex tape has surfaced that purportedly shows R. Kelly with minors – and attorney Gloria Allred is representing the guy who claims to have found it and turned it over to cops.

Allred just held a press conference in NYC, where her client, Gary Dennis, came forward to explain how he found the tape, and why he’s speaking out now.

Dennis, who says he has no connection to R. Kelly whatsoever, claims he recently found this new sex tape while going through old VHS tapes of his own. He says he initially discovered the tape as a “sports tape,” but that it also had R. Kelly’s name on it.

Dennis goes on to say that he thought the R. Kelly part of the tape would feature a concert of his, but later discovered it was a sex tape as he continued to watch past the sports content. He says he doesn’t know how this tape turned up in his possession but says he watched it and saw R. Kelly engaging in sex acts with what he perceived to be underage black girls … more than one.

Dennis didn’t go into much detail about what he saw on the tape but did say that the girls on camera were doing and saying things based on R. Kelly’s instructions. Dennis also says the girls appeared to be underdeveloped and that the only man on tape — who he claims looked a lot like R. Kelly — seemed to be in charge of the camera.

The guy says the tape appears to have been produced in the 1990s … adding there’s no indication of where it was filmed.

Allred says they’ve turned over the sex tape to law enforcement officials from U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York. She wouldn’t comment one way or another on whether she’d personally seen this new tape herself. However, Allred says she believes more tapes of R. Kelly are in circulation.

This tape would be the third one handed to law enforcement in the last month. Attorney Michael Avenatti has already turned over 2 tapes to prosecutors in Chicago … one of which prompted the 10 count indictment against R. Kelly for aggravated sexual abuse.

Over the last week, we have had 5 other individuals contact us with tapes that they claim show R. Kelly having sex with underage girls. Upon investigation, they don’t and the individuals would have no reason to have such a tape. Publicizing this “evidence” undermines the process.

Speaking of Avenatti, he appears to have responded to Allred’s press conference … and seems to be casting doubt on the veracity of her client’s claims.

BTW … Allred already reps a number of R. Kelly accusers, including two women who say he targeted them after a Baltimore concert in 1995. One of those women, Latresa Scaff, says R. Kelly had sex with her without her consent in a hotel room … this after he’d already plied the then-underage girls with alcohol and drugs at an after-party following his concert.

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