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For Schools, Gambling Funding Is No Jackpot – CityLab

Posted: February 22, 2017 at 4:44 am

Though states often pledge to fund public schools with taxes levied on lotteries and casinos, that money tends to get funneled elsewhere.

In 2008, after years of political squabbling over whether Maryland should host casino gambling, the question came up before voters in a referendum. The state government and the gambling industry lobbied hard for the votes, pledging that taxes levied on the gambling establishments would go to public education. TV commercials promised that casinos would bring hundreds of millions of dollars directly into our schools, and warned that if Maryland missed this opportunity, those stacks of cash would instead benefit students in the bordering casino-friendly states of West Virginia and Delaware.

The referendum passed. In 2012, after the most expensive political campaign in Maryland’s history, a ballot question expanding gambling to table games also passed, narrowly. Maryland now has six casinos, including the Horseshoe Casino in downtown Baltimore, which opened in 2014. In the last seven years, these facilities have welcomed tens of millions of visitors and generated around $4.5 billion in profits. That has translated into $1.7 billion in funds for education, including $200 million from Horseshoe.

Yet Baltimores schools are in dire straits: Last month, city schools CEO Sonja Santelises announced that, due to a $130 million budget deficit, she is considering laying off more than 1,000 workers, including teachers.

That same week, the Baltimore Sun reported that the casino money the state had promised for public schools is instead being siphoned to pay for other government expenses, such as salaries and roadwork. As a result, Maryland schools have received the same amount of money they would have without the casino tax. And Baltimore schools have received less state money than they did before the casino opened.

The casino pitch that Maryland voters went for in 2008 is one that was honed over decades, as one by one states agreed to host the gambling industry. Its been a big turnaround for an industry that was all but banned nationwide in the early 20th century. Though Nevada legalized casinos in 1931, most states began to allow them in the 1990s. The promise of reaping economic benefits has driven the trend: Statistics from the American Gaming Association show that casinos bring thousands of jobs to host communities, and they also have a multiplier effect, in which new businesses then open in the surrounding area. This is particularly helpful, says Erik Balsbaugh, the associations VP of public affairs, for struggling post-industrial cities like Bethlehem, Pennsylvania and Springfield, Massachusetts.

To win support, casino boosters often emphasized that a percentage of these benefits from lotteries and casinos would be funneled directly into public education. They countered fears of gambling with this emotional reference, says Patrick Pierce, a professor at Saint Marys College in Indiana who has studied the topic. Americans, at least on a symbolic level, place a great deal of emphasis on public education.

The tactic did the trick: Today, you can play the lottery and/or bet at a casino in most states.

Experts on gambling and state funding say that Maryland is only one of dozens of states taking gambling revenue meant for education and using it for other purposes.

In almost every case states either earmark the funds for education but then decrease the general fund appropriations for education by a similar amount, or, in more cases, they simply put the money in the general fund, says Denise Runge, a dean at the University of Alaska Anchorage and editor of Resorting to Casinos: The Mississippi Gambling Industry.

In the first year of operation, taxes from lotteries generally do go toward education, according to a study Pierce co-authored that looked at the period 1966 to 1990. You saw an initial bump in education spending by about $50 per capita, he says. But after a number of years, the practice of using the money for other expenses became commonplace. After eight or nine years, says Pierce, states with lotteries were spending less on education than states that didnt have the lottery tax.

State lawmakers welcome the lotteries and casinos for this very reason: The tax revenue gives them the flexibility to fund other programs or even cut other taxes. If youre a state legislator and youre telling citizens that you supported gambling because it improves childrens education, and then you used the money someplace else, you did a bait and switch, says Pierce.

And politicians become dependent on the moneysomething the gambling industry understands well. Pierce notes, for instance, that while Nevada is famous for its casinos, it doesnt have a state lotterycasino operators dont want the competition. The industrys pull with Nevada lawmakers is a major reason why we havent seen an effective push to put a lottery in place, he says.

Earl Grinols, an economics professor at Baylor University, says this relationship between government and gambling amounts to crony capitalism, in which the industry and state politicians stand to gain from each otherand do. The public system should be designed so that it leads people to do the right thing, he says. When you set up a system in which the gambling industry and state government have interests in common, you do the opposite. You create a system that encourages back-room deals.

But not all gambling-sourced school funds are fated to disappear: The exception are scholarships like Georgias Hope Scholarship program, which provides merit-based funding to students pursuing an undergraduate degree. The program didnt exist before Georgias lottery, which began in 1992, and so wasnt financed through a general fund that could be monkeyed with.

Every dollar from the lottery that comes in for the Hope Scholarship program goes to that program, says Ross Rubenstein, a Georgia State professor who studies lotteries and education funding. Whats more, Georgias model spurred states such as Tennessee, South Carolina, and Florida to create similar lottery-funded scholarship programs.

Still, because these scholarships are merit- rather than need-based, they often benefit middle- and upper-income students rather than their poorer counterparts. Thats particularly problematic, because virtually every study on lotteries shows that lower-income households spend a larger amount of their earnings on lotteries or casino gambling than higher income households. Youre redistributing wealth from poor people to wealthier people, says Pierce. (Rubenstein notes that Georgia also straightforwardly distributes lottery money for pre-kindergarten programs. Benefits for pre-K are a little more even across income groups, he says.)

Politicians also like taxes from casinos and lotteries because theyre voluntary: However regressive these taxes are, no one has to pay them. As a result, theyre less likely to complain to state legislators about them. But this also makes these revenue streams unstable.

Runge of the University of Alaska notes that over time, casinos tend to make less money, as general interest drops off. Baltimores Horseshoe Casino, for instance, has seen a 14.5 percent decrease in its revenue in the past year. Rubenstein says theres a similar trend with lotteries. Everyone wants to play them when they are first available, he says, but then many people start to realize theyre not going to win, or they get bored with the games. So even if public schools were benefiting from these taxes, the revenue stream is not reliable.

The key, then, is not to reform this flawed system, but to scrap it for a better one. Pierce wants politiciansstate governors in particularto have the courage to tell constituents that taxes from stable sources, such as income or sales, are needed for education. And then they need to actually raise taxes.

If everyone really wants to support our schools, we need to make a public commitment to them, says Pierce. The way to do that is not through gambling.


For Schools, Gambling Funding Is No Jackpot – CityLab

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Gambling expert calls on provinces to step into daily fantasy sports arena – CBC.ca

Posted: February 20, 2017 at 7:49 pm

A gambling researcher is calling on Canada’s provincial lottery corporations to enter the controversial business of daily fantasy sports, citing their ability to best regulate the activity that has been characterized as illegal gambling by some U.S. states.

Daily fantasy sports differs from the more familiar season-long game where fans act as managers for a roster of selected real-life players over the course of a season.

In DFS, fans select a roster of players who are competing on the same day. Those selections are then entered into contests against other fans’ fantasy rosters with the players’ real in-game stats determining the winners.

In this March 18, 2016 file photo, daily fantasy sports player Scott Burlingame poses with the Syde site on his smartphone at his home in Aldie, Va. (The Associated Press/Harry Hamburg)

While some competitions are free to enter, DFS becomes controversial due to the entry fees providers collect and the payouts they provide to winners.

“When you’re putting money down to win money and there’s a probability that you’re not going to win money, then that’s gambling,” said Prof. Jeffrey Derevensky of McGill University.

Derevensky is encouraging provincial governments to consider adopting DFS into their stables of online games, saying they’re best equipped to label the activity as gambling, and lend their expertise enforcing identity and age verification, self-exclusion programs and voluntary daily limits.

“Any form of fantasy should have those same kind of responsible gambling features built into their site,” said Derevensky.

He is one of many experts who assert that DFS is a form of gambling, but legal opinions aren’t as clear and vary widely between jurisdictions.

In Canada, the federal government has shown little interest in exploring the legality of DFS. And, even if it considered daily fantasy to be gambling, Ottawa has historically only prosecuted sites with servers in Canada, which most DFS providers do not have.

But in the U.S., industry leadersDraftKingsandFanDuel havefaced a more hostile legal environment and spent much of 2015 and 2016 fighting legal battlesfor their survival, as a number of states moved to shut them down as a form of illegal gambling.

This despite DFS branding being increasingly hard to miss with providers securing sponsorship deals with pro teams across all major sports and even entire leagues.

Logos of daily fantasy sports companies like FanDuel are easily found at many sporting events, including this NCAA college basketball game in New York state. (The Associated Press/Kathy Willens, File)

Currently, DFS is restricted in 10states while seven more have partial restrictions.

Somestates, including New York,Massachusetts and Virginia, have regulated DFS and require providers to pay registration fees and implement age-verification policies.

While the game may be labelled as fantasy, there is serious money at stake with an estimated 57.4million fantasy players in North America,according to theFantasy Sports Trade Association.

Those who play daily fantasy sports compile a roster of real-life players with pre-assigned values. (Yahoo Sports)

Derevensky says DFS represents an opportunity for Canada’s provincial lottery operators to add a new and growing product.

He’s scheduled to speak in Vancouver on Tuesday at the New Horizons in Responsible Gaming Conference, an event hosted by the British Columbia Lottery Corporation where experts share new research.

BCLC says its aware of DFS’ popularity, adding thatit’s seen double-digit growth in the amount wagered on sports compared to last year. But, spokeswoman Angela Koulyras says there are no immediate plans for BCLC to offerDFS on its site just yet.

“We recognize that DFS is growing in popularity and interest and we’re just keeping a close eye on it at this time.”

Those already in the businesssaythey’renot afraid of newcomers and stand by their product.

“We have competition everywhere. That’s what drives us,” said James Chisholm, DraftKings’s director of public affairs.

“No one has a greater incentive to ensure people who are playing our game are who they say they are than we do.”

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Va. Senate upholds campus free speech – WTOP

Posted: at 7:03 pm

WASHINGTON The Virginia Senate has passed a bill that supporters say promotes campus free speech. But some lawmakers wonder why the law is needed when the U.S. Constitution already provides the First Amendment guarantee.

By a 364 vote, the Senate has followed the lead of the House of Delegates and passed the bill which reads, Except as otherwise permitted by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, no public institution of higher education shall abridge the freedom of any individual, including enrolled students, faculty and other employees, and invited guests, to speak on campus.

I wish this wasnt necessary, said Sen. Mark Obenshain, a Republican representing Virginias 26th District, the chairman of theCourts of Justice Committee.

Weve got examples that abound across the country of colleges and universities that have been unilaterally making decisions as to whats appropriate political speech on campus, he said.

During the brief debate in the Senate chamber, no one could offer an example of any such conflict pitting free speech against political correctness occurring on any Virginia campus, leading some members to wonder whether the bill was needed.

It seems to me that its akin to saying the sky is blue except on cloudy days, even on college campuses, but Im not sure why we need to put that language in the Code of Virginia, said Sen. Creigh Deeds, a Democrat representing Virginias 25th District.

But Senate supporters of the measure insisted that the bill was necessary to encourage healthy debate on the commonwealths campuses.

Free speech is uncomfortable at times, and it has to be a two-way street in order for it to be able to work, Obenshain said.

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Governor Bevin joins amicus brief over California Second … – WKYT – WKYT

Posted: at 6:55 pm

FRANKFORT, Ky. (WKYT) – Governor Matt Bevin has joined in filing an amicus brief over a California Second Amendment case.

The governor’s office announced on Monday that Governor Bevin has joined 25 other states in the brief over Peruta v. San Diego County. The second amendment case is challenging if a California law restricting citizens’ rights to carry handguns outside their homes for self-defense is constitutional.

An amicus brief is a legal document filed in court cases by non-litigants with a strong interest in the subject matter.

The 26 states in the brief say that, when it comes to regulating gun rights, California thinks that the State can do things that would be unthinkable in other areas of constitutional law.

The other states included in the brief are Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

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Bill to lower gambling appears to be DOA in Nevada Legislature – Las Vegas Review-Journal

Posted: February 19, 2017 at 11:49 am

If youre old enough to fight and die for your country, you should be old enough to play blackjack and drop a few dollars into a slot machine at the local casino.

At least, thats the logic of Assemblyman Jim Wheeler, R-Gardnerville, who brings to the table Assembly Bill 86, which, with any luck at all, will be 86d right out of the Legislature.

The bill would reduce the legal age to gamble in Nevada from 21 to 18.

Credit to Wheeler for introducing a philosophical debate among lawmakers. But with just four months to complete the business of the state and the introduction of a solution to a problem that doesnt seem to exist, it makes no sense to spend any time on a proposal that isnt going anywhere.

Dead on arrival, one gaming regulator said at a recent meeting.

Colleague Colton Lochhead reached out to Nevada Gaming Commission Chairman Tony Alamo about the proposal, and he was as puzzled as everybody else about it.

The industry has not come to us with any wants for dropping this, Alamo said. Everyones happy with 21 years of age.

Indeed, Virginia Valentine, president of the Nevada Resorts Association, said her membership isnt bucking to change the law.

Weve never supported it in the past, she said. Theres really no compelling reason to change that position.

In fact, the change could create a problem.

With a legal gambling age of 18 and a legal drinking age of 21, drink servers at casinos would be compelled to card patrons to see if they could be served a drink.

Of course, the argument could be made that carding a customer might be a good thing because casinos could guard against underage drinking as well as underage gambling.

Some observers say that adding players who are 18, 19 and 20 could increase play and thus generate additional tax revenue for the state.

But really, just how much money would the average 18-to-20-year-old spend gambling? For the state, it looks like a big investment with little return.

Nevada is no longer the only state with casinos. Whats the legal gambling age everywhere else?

For most, its 21.

According to the casino.org website, the legal age to gamble at tribal casinos in Alaska, Idaho, Minnesota and Wyoming is 18.

In some states, the legal age is 18 or 21, depending on the game. For example, the age to legally place pari-mutuel bets the type most commonly associated with horse racing is 18 in Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Indiana, Louisiana, Maine, New Mexico, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Washington.

If youre 18, you can play bingo at casinos in Connecticut, Florida, New Mexico, Oregon, Wisconsin and at tribal casinos in South Dakota (but not the commercial sites in Deadwood).

For real confusion, the legal gambling age is 18 or 21, depending on the casino, in California, New York and Oklahoma.

Its easy to sympathize with 18-year-olds who wonder why they can drive, vote and go to war but cant consume alcohol or gamble. It doesnt make sense.

But its a debate from which legislators should keep away.

Contact Richard N. Velotta at rvelotta@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3893. Follow @RickVelotta on Twitter.

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Woman suffering diabetic shock airlifted by Coast Guard from Royal Caribbean cruise ship – ABC News

Posted: at 11:42 am

A 75-year-old woman experiencing diabetic shock was airlifted by the U.S. Coast Guard Saturday morning from a cruise ship located approximately 100 miles east of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina.

The Coast Guard said its 5th District Command Center in Portsmouth, Virginia, was notified at about 9:55 a.m. that a passenger in distress was on board the Royal Caribbean cruise ship Anthem of the Seas.

“An HC-130 Hercules aircraft crew and an MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew from Coast Guard Air Station Elizabeth City, North Carolina, launched to assist,” the Coast Guard said in a statement. “Upon arrival, the Jayhawk helicopter crew hoisted the woman to the helicopter and transported her to Sentara Norfolk General Hospital in Norfolk, arriving at about 1:50 p.m.”

The unidentified woman’s rescue was captured in the following video, which was released by the Coast Guard.

Coast Guard Lt. Courtney Wolf, the command duty officer for the case, said, “Cases like this highlight the importance of cooperation between the Coast Guard, cruise ship personnel and local hospital staff. Today’s hoist went seamlessly due to the coordination between all involved parties, and as a result we were able to transport this individual quickly and safely.”

Diabetic shock — or diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) — is a diabetes complication that can lead to unconsciousness, during which the individual has dangerously high blood sugar (hyperglycemia) or dangerously low blood sugar (hypoglycemia).


Woman suffering diabetic shock airlifted by Coast Guard from Royal Caribbean cruise ship – ABC News

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OPINION: It’s time the law caught up with technology – The Daily Progress

Posted: at 11:07 am

When James Madison drafted the first 10 amendments of the United States Constitution, known as the Bill of Rights, he had no idea how technology would shape American life or that a thing called the internet would change the way we communicate.

However, Mr. Madison did know that the rights of the American people must be protected. In todays digital age and in the midst of a technology revolution, it is important that Congress ensure that our laws still provide protections for these rights.

Thirty years ago when personal computers were in their infancy and almost no one had ever heard of the World Wide Web Congress enacted theElectronic Communications Privacy Act, or ECPA,to establish procedures that strike a fair balance between the privacy expectations of American citizens and the legitimate needs of law enforcement agencies.Back then, mail was sent with a postage stamp, a search engine was called a library, and clouds were found only in the sky.Much has changed in the last three decades, and today massive amounts of data is shared and stored online.At the same time, law enforcement agencies are increasingly dependent upon stored electronic communications content and records in their investigations.

Unfortunately, technologyhas outpaced ECPAsprovisions governing how law enforcement obtains electronic communications. As a result, many in Congress share my concern that this out-of-date law provides insufficient protections for Americans privacy.

Its time the law caught up with technology. Recently, the House of Representatives passed theEmail Privacy Actto update the procedures governing government access to stored emails,helping to preserve Americans Fourth Amendment protections from unreasonable searches and seizures of property.This bipartisan billmodernizes current law, establishing for the first time in federal law a uniform warrant requirement to acquire stored electronic communications in criminal investigations.

Reforming ECPA has been a top priority for me as chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.For several years,I have worked with members of Congress, advocacy groups, and law enforcement agencies on many complicated nuances involved in updating this law. TheEmail Privacy Actis a carefully-negotiated agreement thatwill better protect Americans constitutional rightsandlaw enforcements ability to protect public safety and fight crime.

Given the bipartisan support for this legislation, I am hopeful the Senate will take up the measure in the 115th Congress and send it to President Trumps desk. The Constitution protects Americans property from unreasonable searches and seizures, and we must ensure this principle thrives in the digital age.

Bob Goodlatte represents Virginia’s 6th Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives. He lives in Roanoke and Washington, D.C.

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FDR visits UVa law school on this day in 1937 – The Daily Progress

Posted: at 11:06 am

Franklin D. Roosevelt Jr., visited the University of Virginia law School today (Feb. 19, 1937), discussed the courses offered here and took application blanks away with him, it was announced by Dr. George Boardman Eager, dean of the law school. It has been reported for some time that young Roosevelt was considering entering the University next year but Dr. Eager stated that he had no communication from the Roosevelt family until he was visited this morning.

The Daily Progress account went on: Roosevelt visited the Monticello Hotel this morning but did not register for a room, employees there said.

A day earlier, The Daily Progress acknowledged the rumors swirling about town of the presidents son considering UVa. Roosevelt and his fiance Ethel du Pont had been spotted in town, and seen by passengers on the Florida-New York train.

Roosevelt Jr. did enroll in the School of Law at UVa that fall and went on to earn his Juris Doctorate degree in 1940. It was at his graduation that his father, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, delivered his famous Stab in the Back speech, criticizing Italys entry into the war. Soon after graduation, Roosevelt was commissioned in the U.S. Navy and following WW II, assumed his law career. He also served on President Harry S. Trumans committee on civil rights, and was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives.

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Basketball: Miami Hurricanes showing progress in critical win over Clemson – MyPalmBeachPost (blog)

Posted: at 11:06 am

Kamari Murphys jumpers were two of the positive signs for UM in its win over Clemson. (Getty Images)

CORAL GABLES Miami would like to have JaQuan Newton on the floor.

While hes suspended, however, the Hurricanes have proven more than capable of winning.

UM won its second game in a row without its junior point guard, beating Clemson 71-65 at the Watsco Center in a vital chance for both teams to add to their NCAA tournament resumes.

The Hurricanes (18-8, 8-6 ACC) offset the absence of Newton, a talented scorer who can break down the stingiest of defenses, by producing four players in double figures: senior forward Kamari Murphy (career-high 15), senior guard Davon Reed (14), sophomore center Ebuka Izundu (12) and sophomore forward Anthony Lawrence (10). Freshman guard Bruce Brown had nine points.

Miami needed everyone to contribute in a tight game, which it led by one possession for most of the first half, and two scores by most of the second. Its largest lead was eight.

We all play for each other, said Murphy. If everyone plays their role, well get the win. Whoever steps up that day, well take it.

What coach Jim Larranaga liked more: his team had more assists (19) and fewer turnovers (seven) Saturday than in any one of their ACC games this year. That result came against a Clemson team that leads the ACC in steals.

Brown, Reed and Lawrence each finished with five assists. Larranaga was beaming about some of those passes afterward.

Lawrence threw one behind his head to Murphy for a first-half lay-up. Freshman guard D.J. Vasiljevic stole the ball, read the fast-break defense and dropped it to Lawrence for a slam. With 1:34 left and Miami up three, Reed drove baseline and hooked a pass to the top of the key to Brown for a three-pointer. Ballgame.

Nineteen assists, Larranaga said. I like em all.

The crowd of 6,987 liked when Murphy, a 6-foot-8 redshirt senior known for defense and dunks, showed he has a little offensive game. He hit a jumper early, and later used a pump-fake, then Euro-stepped his way to the basket for two points. He rattled home another jumper on the next possession.

Teams have got to change their scouting report now, said a smiling Murphy, who made a career-best seven shots on nine attempts, and led Miami in rebounds (nine). He admitted the Euro-step was just instinct I dont think thats part of my game.

Murphy would like to have the soft lefty jump-hook of his 6-10 frontcourt mate, Izundu, whom he said scores easiest out of anyone on the team. After early-season foul trouble plagued him, Izundu is provingit. He scored 13 points in his first nine conference games, but is averaging 8.8 in his last five, beginning with a career-high 16 on Feb. 4 at North Carolina State.

Vasiljevic, a 6-2 guard from Australia, has shot mostly assisted 3s so far. But Larranaga said he attacks the basket in practice, and was quite satisfied when Vasiljevic (five points) scored Saturday by splitting a double-team and throwing an off-balance floater at the rim.

He also noted 6-10 freshman forward Dewan Huell (six points), a former McDonalds high school All-American battling a foot injury,called his own name on a play called Chin Rip, where he scored on an up-and-under layup through contact.

Were making a lot of progress, Larranaga said. Young guys. You just dont know their timetable. Bruce Brown was ready by the time the season began. Then youve got guys like Dewan, who really needed to add strength. D.J. needed to play against the fast, quick athlete. In one of our early practices, I forget what Dewan did, but D.J. said, Yeah, we dont have those kind of dunks in Australia.’

I think our upperclassmen have played well all year, but our freshmen and sophomores are gaining more confidence.

Reed, Miamis steadiest player, grabbed seven boards and played excellent defense on Clemsons 6-7 star Jaron Blossomgame (17.3 points per game), who made 13 of his last 27 threes entering the game. He missed all five he took Saturday and scored 16 points. The Tigers didnt make a 3 in the second half (0-for-8) and finished 3-of-17.

That defense will help Miami on Monday at Virginia, currently ranked No. 14 and one of three ranked teams Miami will face in its final four games. The Hurricanes host No. 12 Duke on Saturday and finish on the road at Virginia Tech (Feb. 27) and at No. 17 Florida State (March 4). If they win one of those, it will greatly boost their resume heading into the ACC tournament (March 7-11 in Brooklyn, N.Y.).

We dont want to think too far down the line, but every game is crucial, Murphy said. We want to have a postseason. Youve always got to protect home court.

For Clemson, Saturdays loss struck a major blow. The Tigers (14-12, 4-10) have a few wins in a loaded ACC, and the fifth-toughest schedule according to KenPom.com, but are now 2-6 on the road in conference play.

Not for me to say, coach Brad Brownell said when asked what the loss did to his tournament chances. We lost the game to a top-50 RPI team. I dont think it does much.

Both teams were hot to start, each opening 6-for-7 and 13-for-20 from the floor. Thats typical for Clemson, which was ranked 27th in offensive efficiency by KenPom.com. The Hurricanes, stingy defensively all year, settled in and held the Tigers 10 points below their season average.

Clemson cut it to two points with 11:11, and one point with 7:43, but Reed and Lawrence sank threes in response both times.

Making both free throws, making a big three, a timely shot, Brownell said. We just didnt get any momentum-type plays in the second half.

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Diane Dimond: Shaking the Family Tree for DNA to Solve Crimes … – Noozhawk

Posted: at 10:50 am

Its a scientifically proven method of crime fighting that is banned in all but a handful of states. Why arent more crime labs using it?

Its called familial DNA testing, and it has been widely restricted because some see it as an invasion of innocent peoples privacy. Others remain convinced that it is justifiable since it solves crimes and even brings notorious serial killers to justice. You decide.

Routine DNA testing takes samples of blood, saliva, semen, skin cells and other bodily remnants from a crime scene and runs them through a national FBI database called the Combined DNA Index System, or CODIS, to see whether the unknown perpetrators DNA is already in the system. If no match is found, the next step could be a familial DNA test.

Heres how it works:

CODIS is the largest DNA registry in the world, containing profiles on more than 14 million individuals. Say a man was arrested in the late 1990s for assault with a deadly weapon and was required to give a DNA sample. His DNA profile would automatically have been added to the CODIS registry, to be stored forever.

If police were to recover DNA years later from, say, a murder scene, a familial DNA test could reveal whether the murder suspect came from the same family tree as the assailant. If the test were to find a familial match, police could then put a surname to the DNA material.

Familial testing can even expose the familial relationship, be it a father-child or brother-brother match.

Heres a real-life case:

When dogged detective Lt. Ken Landwehr in Wichita, Kan., finally zeroed in on Dennis Rader as being the infamous BTK Killer (bind, torture and kill killer), he wanted to be absolutely certain that he had the man who murdered 10 people over a 17-year span.

Rader had a history of taunting police with cryptic letters and, finally, with a floppy disk full of information about his murder spree. Landwehr found data on the disk that led to a computer at a local church. He discovered Rader was the church council president.

Landwehr then got a warrant to obtain a genetic sample from Raders daughter. After using a familial DNA analysis on her Pap test, technicians concluded that her DNA profile was a familial match to the DNA left at one of the BTK Killers murder scenes.

This gave Landwehr the evidence he needed to take the serial killer off the streets. Rader pleaded guilty, sparing the community a long, painful and expensive trial.

Familial DNA testing also brought a Los Angeles serial killer to justice. For more than 20 years, detectives had been looking for a perp nicknamed the Grim Sleeper, who was so named for the long spans of time in between his murders.

When a young man named Christopher Franklin was arrested on a weapons charge in 2008, his DNA was registered in CODIS. Later, during periodic rechecks of the Grim Sleepers DNA, a familial match popped up indicating Franklin was closely related. The conclusion was that Franklin was either the father of or the son of the serial killer.

A detective posed as a busboy at a pizza place, and upon testing a partly eaten slice Franklins father had left, a familial match to the crime scene DNA was found. As a result, 57-year-old Lonnie David Franklin was convicted of 10 murders and sentenced to death.

Hundreds more major crimes and cold cases have been solved using familial DNA testing both here in the United States and in the United Kingdom, where the technique was pioneered. Yet criticism about the invasion of privacy continues.

Surely, the Grim Sleepers son gave up his right to privacy when he broke the law and was required to give a DNA sample. But what about the daughter of the BTK Killer? She likely never could have imagined that her routine gynecological test would be used to convict her father of multiple murders and then stored in CODIS in perpetuity.

Advancements in forensic science force us to consider weighty issues. Should people lose their right to privacy just because a family member becomes a criminal? Or does the publics right to community safety trump the rights of the individual?

The debate has kept most states from adopting laws allowing familial DNA testing. So far, only 10 states California, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Michigan, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming perform it.

Study after study over the years has concluded that criminal behavior runs in families, either for genetic or environmental reasons. One study concluded that only 8 percent of families account for 43 percent of all crime. Armed with that knowledge, doesnt it make sense to shake the family tree as a last resort?

Diane Dimond is the author of Thinking Outside the Crime and Justice Box. Contact her at diane@dianedimond.com, follow her on Twitter: @DiDimond, or click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are her own.

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Diane Dimond: Shaking the Family Tree for DNA to Solve Crimes … – Noozhawk

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