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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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DEMI LOVATO TO SING NATIONAL ANTHEM AT SUPER BOWL LIV

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Multi-platinum singer, songwriter, DEMI LOVATO will sing the National Anthem as part of Super Bowl LIV pregame festivities at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami on Sunday, February 2, the NFL and FOX announced today. 

The pregame show, including the National Anthem, will be broadcast live worldwide.

Lovato is a Grammy-nominated singer, songwriter, actress, advocate, philanthropist, and business woman. Within hours of the release of Lovato’s fifth studio album, CONFIDENT, the first single, “Cool for the Summer” trended worldwide and hit #1 on iTunes in 37 countries.

Lovato will join a prestigious line up of Super Bowl National Anthem performers, including: Gladys Knight, Lady Gaga, Beyoncé, Luke Bryan, Whitney Houston, Diana Ross, Jennifer Hudson, Billy Joel, P!NK, Jordin Sparks, Idina Menzel, Mariah Carey, Alicia Keys, and Neil Diamond.

In addition, on behalf of the National Association of the Deaf (NAD), CHRISTINE SUN KIM, internationally renowned sound artist and performer, will sign the National Anthem in American Sign Language.

The NFL previously announced that Jennifer Lopez and Shakira will headline the Pepsi Super Bowl LIV Halftime Show.

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Tyler Perry Will Make His Netflix Debut With ‘A Fall From Grace’

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Now that Tyler Perry has ended the Madea franchise, and has his very own state-of-the-art production facility in Atlanta, GA, Perry is trying his hand at another thriller movie with his upcoming Netflix film, A Fall From Grace,

Crystal Fox, Phylicia Rashad, Bresha Webb, Mehcad Brooks, Cicely Tyson (Academy Award® Nominee) and Perry round out the cast. Perry also writes and directs A Fall from Grace, and it was the first to be completely filmed at his Atlanta studio.

The film follows a newly divorced woman named Grace Waters (Fox) who falls in love with a young man named Shannon (Brooks). But when secrets erode her short-lived joy, Grace’s vulnerable side turns violent

After being arrested for killing her new husband and awaiting for her upcoming trial, her lawyer (Webb) digs deep to find out the truth behind her husband’s alleged death and find a way to try to prove her innocence. “When you wake up, you don’t know that today will be the day to change your life,” says a disheveled and hand-cuffed Grace in the new montage of scenes.

A Fall from Grace arrives on Netflix on January 17th; add it to your watch-list here and check out the official trailer above.

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Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, returns to Canada after bombshell announcement

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The Duchess of Sussex has returned to Canada after she and Prince Harry announced they were “stepping back” as senior members of Britain’s royal family.

Prince Harry remains in the UK and Meghan is expected to come back to London on Tuesday, when the couple are set to attend an event with Janice Charette, High Commissioner of Canada to the UK, at Canada House.

Meghan and Harry wanted to meet with Charette “as well as staff to thank them for the warm Canadian hospitality and support they received during their recent stay in Canada,” according to a statement from Buckingham Palace.

The couple recently returned from Canada, where they spent the Christmas holidays with the duchess’ mother, Doria Ragland.

“The Duke and Duchess have a strong connection to Canada. It’s a country The Duke of Sussex has visited many times over the years and it was also home to The Duchess for seven years before she became a member of The Royal Family,” the royals said on their Instagram page, Sussex Royal, on Wednesday.

The latest developments follow the shock announcement that the pair plan to “transition into a new working model” and become “financially independent” after stepping back from their roles as senior members of the British royal family.

There was said to be a mood of deep disappointment in the palace following the announcement, and senior members of the family are hurt as a result of the news.

Meghan and Harry’s desire to become “financially independent” has also sparked questions as to how they will be able to do this.

The pair published detailed documents outlining the structure and funding of their household, which revealed they receive 5% of their income from the Sovereign Grant — a lump sum of UK taxpayers’ money given to the Queen every year — and 95% from the Duchy of Cornwall, the private estate controlled by Prince Charles, Harry’s father.

Media reports have suggested that Meghan was independently worth around $5 million before she married Harry, who inherited millions from his mother Princess Diana.

However UK newspaper The Times reports that Charles may withdraw funding from the couple if they completely withdraw from their royal duties.

Observers say the couple are unlikely to struggle for money and could generate income from a UK trademark for their brand ‘Sussex Royal,” which the couple applied for in June, as well as sponsorship or speaking tours.

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