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NCAA Referees Have Their Own Sort Of March Madness

Just like the teams they officiate, referees' Final Four dreams are also on the line. Only a few get to call the year's biggest games.
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  • President Donald Trump is sending Congress a spending plan for 2018 that would increase money spent on defense and border security, cut many areas of non-defense spending by Uncle Sam, and achieve a balanced budget by 2027, though it would add several trillion dollars to the national debt along the way. Here are some of the early highlights from the Trump budget. 1. Over $3.1 trillion in new debt over 10 years. The Trump budget does get to a surplus – but it takes ten years to reach that point, in 2027. So, even if this President serves two terms in office, he would be gone from the White House before balancing the budget under this plan. Despite all the talk about cuts, the President’s 2018 budget would not get the yearly budget deficit below $400 billion until 2023. Here are the yearly deficit estimates under the Trump 2018 budget plan, which add up to $3.15 trillion in more debt over the next ten years: 2018 – $440 billion 2019 – $526 billion 2020 – $488 billion 2021 – $456 billion 2022 – $442 billion 2023 – $319 billion 2024 – $209 billion 2025 – $176 billion 2026 – $110 billion 2027 – $16 billion surplus 2. Real cuts in Trump plan, but beware the numbers.You will hear a lot of reporting that the President’s 2018 budget envisions $1.4 trillion in cuts over ten years in non-defense spending. Don’t believe that, because of the way Congress totals up spending cuts. But, the Trump budget will actually cut the amount of discretionary spending by 2027, not just have the budget grow by a smaller amount each year. For example, in 2018, the President’s plan would spend $1.244 trillion on programs outside of Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security (known as discretionary spending programs, which are voted on each year by the Congress) – that number would be trimmed to $1.151 trillion in 2027, according to figures provided by the White House. I know a little about math, as that is an actual spending cut of 7.5 percent – this is not just a reduction in a planned level of increase. 3. What areas will take the biggest budget hit? While the Pentagon, border security, Veterans Affairs and homeland defense will see overall increases under this Trump plan, a number of other federal departments and agencies would see cuts in 2018. (These would be real cuts, not just a reduction in a level of increase.) Here are the biggest losers in percentage terms: + EPA – 31.4% budget cut (from $8.2 to $5.7 billion) + State Department & foreign aid – 29.1% budget cut + Agriculture – 20.5% budget cut ($22.7 to $18 billion) + Labor – 19.8% cut ($12.1 to $9.7 billion) + HHS – 16.2% cut (from $78 to $65.3 billion) + Commerce – 15.8% cut (from $9.2 to $7.8 billion) + Education – 13.5% cut (from $68.2 to $59 billion) + HUD – 13.2% cut (from $46.9 to $40.7 billion) + Transportation – 12.7% cut ($18.6 to $16.2 billion) 4. Cool GOP reaction to parental leave plan. Pressed by his daughter Ivanka, the President’s budget sets aside $25 billion over ten years for a project that is sure to draw more support from Democrats than Republicans – allowing parents time off to be with a newborn baby. “For the first time ever – by any administration of any party – we are proposing a nationwide, paid parental leave,” said Mulvaney. The plan would allow for six weeks of time off – Democrats have proposed plans that have double that amount of leave and more. The initial reaction from Republicans was as you might expect – they’re not into the idea. Cornyn on Ivanka's $25B family leave plan: 'Happy to talk to her … but obviously when it comes to spending it's a matter or priorities' — Burgess Everett (@burgessev) May 22, 2017 5. Federal workers would see retirement changes. The President’s budget would look to reduce retirement benefits for federal workers, saving an estimated $72 billion over ten years, according to figures released by the White House. Among the ideas, reducing retirement benefits by limiting and/or eliminating yearly cost of living adjustments; and increase the amount of money employees must contribute to their retirement plan. The details are sure to draw complaints from federal employee unions and lawmakers in the Washington, D.C. region. Fed'l workers earned their #pension benefits. Cutting pensions to fund tax breaks for wealthy people and corporations is wrong. #resist https://t.co/r7D4hdeBX9 — Alliance Retirees (@ActiveRetirees) May 22, 2017 Many more details will be available on Wednesday morning, as the budget – titled a “New Foundation for American Greatness,” is delivered to Capitol Hill. “If I had sort of a subtitle for this budget, it would be the “Taxpayer First Budget,” said White House budget chief Mick Mulvaney. Mulvaney will get the chance to defend the plan starting Wednesday on Capitol Hill.
  • A data relay box has failed on the International Space Station, and two astronauts will have to go outside the station to fix it. Commander Peggy Whitson and Fight Engineer Jack Fischer are making an emergency space walk today, scheduled for 7:00 a.m. Tuesday Tulsa time. The backup, redundant relay box is working as it's supposed to, so the crew is not in any immediate danger But the repair is necessary to keep the backup redundant and not critical. Whitson has already had lots of practice with 9 previous space walks. Fischer, just one. You can read more about the emergency space walk here.
  • After more than 145 years, the lights have gone dark on the iconic Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus.  The big top came down in New York in front of a sold-out crowd at Nassau Coliseum after 146 years, NBC News reported.  >> Read more trending news “The Greatest Show on Earth” ended with a standing ovation after ringmaster Johnathan Lee Iverson bid them farewell with, “Let’s go home and show everyone we are forever more the Greatest Show on Earth!” Iverson then led the crowd through the circus tradition of singing “Auld Lang Syne.” Performers sang along and hugged one another. Feld Entertainment, the company that owned Ringling Bros., announced in January that the shows were ending because of  to declining ticket sales after it retired its troupe of elephants in the wake of battles with animal rights groups, The New York Times reported. Animals that are owned by the show’s performers will be kept by their trainers, but others will be transferred to centers that can care for them, NBC News reported.
  • Meteorologists with the National Weather Service office went out to survey storm damage in Green Country after Thursday’s storms. The meteorologists determined that there were seven tornadoes in northeast Oklahoma last week. Tornadoes near Wagoner, Red Bird and Porter reached estimated wind speeds of up to 105 mph. Houses and buildings were damaged or destroyed.  National Weather Service is also still assessing damage from tornados in Peggs, Hulbert and two near Muskogee.
  • A dozen jurors and six alternates will be selected — then shipped across the state to serve in what is expected to be a two-week trial beginning June 5 on allegations the entertainer molested a Temple University basketball team manager at his home near Philadelphia in 2004. Here's what you need to know about jury selection: ___ Q: Why is the jury being picked in Pittsburgh? A: Cosby's lawyers sought an outside jury because the case had been a flashpoint in the 2015 race for Montgomery County district attorney. Former prosecutor Bruce Castor, the Republican candidate, had declined to charge Cosby a decade earlier. First Assistant District Attorney Kevin Steele, a Democrat whose office had reopened the case, attacked Castor over the Cosby case in campaign ads. ___ Q: What will it be like to serve on the jury? A: In a rare move, the jury will be sequestered near the courthouse in Norristown, some 300 miles (482 kilometers) away from their homes. Court officers will keep close tabs on their cellphone use, TV time and reading material, given the huge media coverage the case will bring. The trial is expected to last about two weeks, but could go longer if rebuttal witnesses are called or the jury struggles to reach a verdict. ___ Q: What type of jurors will the defense seek? A: The defense will likely seek jurors who are black, male, older and perhaps celebrity worshippers, in the view of jury consultant Howard Varinksy, who advised prosecutors in the murder trials of Scott Peterson, who was convicted of killing his pregnant wife; Timothy McVeigh; and others. Black jurors may be more willing to doubt police and prosecutors, while older jurors may blame the victim for being in the married Cosby's home, he said. Celebrity worshippers may be sympathetic or try to form a connection to the star, relating to the fact they once saw them in a store or they come from the same hometown or have children the same age. ___ Q: How about the prosecution? A: Younger jurors may have more modern views of sexual assault cases, especially those, like Cosby's, that involve acquaintance situations or a delay in contacting police. Varinsky expects about one in four jurors to say they or someone close to them has been the victim of a sexual assault. Those individuals would likely be dismissed by the judge. ___ Q: How much leeway does each side have to pick jurors? A: Either side can ask the judge to strike a potential juror for cause, without it counting against them. That might include jurors who admit having a biased view of the case or have a hardship — a medical condition, family obligation or financial or job situation — that prevents them from serving. After that, each side can strike seven jurors and three alternates without cause, simply because they fear they would hurt their sides. ___ Q: Will the jurors be identified? A: Judge Steven O'Neill plans to keep the jurors' names private. However, the press will be covering the proceedings, reporting on both the nature of the arguments over jury selection and the willingness of people to serve in the high-profile case. ___ Q: What should I watch for? A: —Jurors too eager to serve in a celebrity case. Some may even hope to write a book afterward, if past cases are any guide. —Can the parties find 18 people without strong feelings about the case or Cosby's career? Do they express fond memories of benevolent TV dad Cliff Huxtable or cartoon character Fat Albert? Or are they bitter about Cosby's scolding of the young black community? —Is the jury pool familiar with the scores of other Cosby accusers? Are people being truthful if they say they're not, given the widespread media coverage? —What's the final breakdown in terms of men/women; old/young; black/white/other? gay/straight? (Cosby is 79, black, long-married, a father of five, American and a career entertainer. Trial accuser Andrea Constand is 43, white, single, gay, Canadian and a basketball professional-turned-massage therapist.) —Will politics come into play, subtly or not? Given sex assault allegations raised against President Donald Trump, and his vulgar comments caught on tape about grabbing women, will lawyers try to glean the jurors' political leanings? ___ Q: Will jurors hear from Cosby during the trial? A: Cosby told an interviewer this past week that he does not expect to testify, given his fear of wading into trouble while trying to be truthful during cross-examination.