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Denzel Washington, Simone Biles Among 17 Medal of Honor Recipients

Gymnastics legend Simone Biles is among 17 Presidential 
Medal of Honor Recipients Announced Friday. 

Gymnastics superstar Simone Biles and actor Denzel Washington are among the 17 people slated to be given the nation's highest civilian honor next week.

President Joe Biden made the announcement Friday that the duo would be among those to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

The award is presented to individuals who have made exemplary contributions to the prosperity, values, or security of the United States, world peace, or other significant societal, public or private endeavors.

"These seventeen Americans demonstrate the power of possibilities and embody the soul of the nation – hard work, perseverance, and faith," President Biden said in a statement revealing the selections.

He added, "They have overcome significant obstacles to achieve impressive accomplishments in the arts and sciences, dedicated their lives to advocating for the most vulnerable among us, and acted with bravery to drive change in their communities – and across the world – while blazing trails for generations to come."

Biles is the most decorated American gymnast in history, with a combined total of 32 Olympic and World Championship medals. She is also a prominent advocate for athletes’ mental health and safety, children in the foster care system, and victims of sexual assault.

Washington is an actor, director, and producer who has won two Academy Awards, a Tony Award, two Golden Globes, and the 2016 Cecil B. DeMille Lifetime Achievement Award. He has also served as National Spokesman for the Boys & Girls Clubs of America for over 25 years.

Joining them on the list are US Soccer star Megan Rapinoe, and several posthumous honorees, including Apple co-founder Steve Jobs and Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain, and Dr. Julieta García — the first Hispanic woman to serve as a college president — amongst others.

The awards will be presented at the White House on July 7.

Click here for a complete list of the recipients. 

Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson Makes History as Supreme Court's First Black Woman Justice

Credit: Collection of the Supreme Court of the United States
Justice Stephen G. Breyer (Retired) administers the judicial oath to Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson in the West Conference Room at the Supreme Court Building. Her husband, Dr. Patrick Jackson, holds the Bible.
For the first time in its 233-year history, the Supreme Court has a black woman among its sitting justices.

On Thursday 51-year-old Ketanji Brown Jackson was sworn in to replace the justice she once worked for as a law clerk — Justice Stephen Breyer. Justice Breyer administered the judicial oaths to her before his retirement became effective at noon, along with Chief Justice John Roberts.

“With a full heart, I accept the solemn responsibility of supporting and defending the Constitution of the United States and administering justice without fear or favor, so help me God,” Jackson said in a statement issued by the court. “I am truly grateful to be part of the promise of our great Nation. I extend my sincerest thanks to all of my new colleagues for their warm and gracious welcome.”

Jackson is the court's 116 justice and in replacing Justice Breyer, who sat on the bench for 27 years, joins one of the most diverse courts in the body's history.

Its membership includes representation from two of the country's largest minority groups and three major religions (Catholic, Protestant and Judaism). With the addition of Brown alongside Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan and Amy Coney Barrett, it will be the first time four women have served together on the nine-member court.

Biden nominated Jackson in February, a month after Breyer, 83, announced he would retire at the end of the court’s term.

The administration said in a statement that Biden "sought a candidate with exceptional credentials, unimpeachable character, and unwavering dedication to the rule of law" to replace Justice Breyer at the time of the selection.

"He also sought a nominee—much like Justice Breyer—who is wise, pragmatic, and has a deep understanding of the Constitution as an enduring charter of liberty," it added. "And the President sought an individual who is committed to equal justice under the law and who understands the profound impact that the Supreme Court’s decisions have on the lives of the American people."

The Senate confirmed Jackson’s nomination in April. The vote was 53-47 in her favor. Every member of the Democrat caucus, along with three Republicans — Senators Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, and Mitt Romney of Utah — voted yes to approve the historic pick.

Official Biography

Ketanji Brown Jackson, Associate Justice,
was born in Washington, D.C., on September 14, 1970. She married Patrick Jackson in 1996, and they have two daughters. She received an A.B., magna cum laude, from Harvard-Radcliffe College in 1992, and a J.D., cum laude, from Harvard Law School in 1996. She served as a law clerk for Judge Patti B. Saris of the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts from 1996 to 1997, Judge Bruce M. Selya of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit from 1997 to 1998, and Justice Stephen G. Breyer of the Supreme Court of the United States during the 1999 Term. After three years in private practice, she worked as an attorney at the U.S. Sentencing Commission from 2003 to 2005. From 2005 to 2007, she served as an assistant federal public defender in Washington, D.C., and from 2007 to 2010, she was in private practice. She served as a Vice Chair and Commissioner on the U.S. Sentencing Commission from 2010 to 2014. In 2012, President Barack Obama nominated her to the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, where she served from 2013 to 2021. She was appointed to the Defender Services Committee of the Judicial Conference of the United States in 2017, and the Supreme Court Fellows Commission in 2019. President Joseph R. Biden, Jr., appointed her to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in 2021 and then nominated her as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court in 2022. She took her seat on June 30, 2022.

R. Kelly Sentenced to 30 Years in Prison

R. Kelly

Legendary R&B singer and songwriter R. Kelly was sentenced to 30 years in prison on Wednesday.

US district judge Ann Donnelly imposed the sentence on the 55-year-old at the federal court in Brooklyn for sexually abusing women, girls and boys.

The conviction comes over 20 years after allegations first arose against the three-time Grammy Award winner, real name Robert Sylvester Kelly.

The "I Believe I Can Fly," singer was charged with 21 counts of making child sexual abuse videos involving various sexual acts in June 2002. He was acquitted on all counts following a trial in 2008.

“With the aid of his inner circle and over a period of decades, the defendant preyed upon children and young women for his own sexual gratification," read a sentencing memorandum filed by federal prosecutors in the eastern district of New York.

It added, “In order to carry out his many crimes, the defendant relied upon his fame, money and popularity as an R&B recording star and used the large network of people his status afforded him – including his business managers, security guards and bouncers, runners, lawyers, accountants, and assistants – to both carry out and conceal his crimes.”

A jury in New York City found Kelly guilty of racketeering and eight counts of violating the Mann Act, which prohibits transporting people across state lines for prostitution, last year. At the heart of the case against Kelly was his 1994 marriage to singer Aaliyah Haughton. The singer was 27 when he married the then 15-year-old Haughton.

Prosecutors said Kelly fraudulently married her to conceal abuse from when she was 12 or 13. Haughton died in 2001.

In handing down the sentence, the judge told Kelly "the public has to be protected from behaviors like this," according to the New York Times.

"These crimes were calculated and carefully planned and regularly executed for almost 25 years," Judge Donnelly added. "You taught them that love is enslavement and violence."

Kelly is currently being held at a federal detention facility in Brooklyn. He is expected to be moved back to Chicago, where he faces another federal trial in August where he is charged with enticement of a minor, possession of child abuse images and obstruction of justice.