Ohio State favorite to win first Big Ten Championship since 2014

After two somewhat disappointing campaigns, the Ohio State Buckeyes are hoping to bounce back in 2017 and put themselves in position for their second national championship in four years.

The Buckeyes have failed to make it to the Big Ten Championship Game the past two years yet find themselves as strong -120 favorites to take home the title this year, according to oddsmakers.

Last year, Ohio State lost a tiebreaker with the Penn State Nittany Lions in the Big Ten East, with each of them finishing at 8-1 in conference play. The Buckeyes still made their way into the College Football Playoff semifinals though, getting blanked by the eventual national champion Clemson Tigers 31-0 to end up 11-2 overall.

Ohio State favorite to win first Big Ten Championship since 2014This year, defending Big Ten champ Penn State returns quarterback Trace McSorley and running back Saquon Barkley, who has already set school records for most rushing yards by a freshman and sophomore. Barkley looks to be one of the early favorites to win the Heisman Trophy along with Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett, with both players sitting at +800.

The Nittany Lions are the +550 co-third choice to repeat as conference champs with the Michigan Wolverines.

The Wolverines lost a thrilling double-overtime affair against the Buckeyes 30-27 in their annual rivalry game a year ago and have yet to get to the Big Ten Championship Game since Jim Harbaugh became their head coach. Michigan went 7-2 in the Big Ten East last season behind Ohio State and Penn State and 10-3 overall.

The Wisconsin Badgers are the +375 second choice to win the Big Ten, mostly because they compete in the conference’s West Division. The Badgers have played in two of the last three Big Ten Championship Games as the West representative, losing 38-31 to the Nittany Lions in 2016 after blowing a 28-7 lead.

The Nebraska Cornhuskers, Iowa Hawkeyes and Northwestern Wildcats are the top challengers for Wisconsin in the West. The Cornhuskers are the +1600 co-fifth choice to win the Big Ten with the Wildcats, while the Hawkeyes are right behind them at +2000.


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Sports bettor Billy Walters gets five years in prison, $10m fine for insider trading

billy-walters-five-years-insider-tradingFamed sports bettor Billy Walters has been fined $10m and sentenced to five years in federal prison for insider trading.

In April, Walters was convicted on charges of securities fraud, wire fraud and conspiracy for his role in an insider trading scheme that netted him $32m in profits while avoiding $11m in losses. On Thursday, US District Judge P. Kevin Castel called Walters “a cheater and a criminal, and not a very clever one.”

The US Attorney for the Southern District of New York charged Walters in 2016 over a series of trades involving Fortune 500 company Dean Foods based on inside information fed to Walters by Dean’s former chairman Thomas Davis, who was heavily in debt at the time. Davis, who has yet to be sentenced, testified against Walters after striking a plea deal with prosecutors.

On Thursday, Castel called Walters’ scheme “amateurishly simple,” in part due to a detailed paper trail that led prosecutors right to Walters’ and Davis’ doors. Castel also claimed that Walters’ scheme was less to do with an actual need for cash, but rather because Walters viewed acquiring riches as “a way of keeping score.”

Castel said restitution and forfeiture will be determined at a later date, but denied Walters’ bid for bail while his attorneys file an appeal. Walters was ordered to surrender to federal authorities on October 10.

Walters was a notorious figure in Nevada sportsbook and international online sportsbook circles, to the point that 60 Minutes did a profile on his betting activity and tout services illegally piggybacked on his name to boost their business.

Walters’ attorneys had sought a one-year prison sentence, claiming that the 71-year-old suffered from poor health, but prosecutors filed papers last week noting that Walters had made 77 visits to a San Diego golf club in the past couple years, and played three rounds in just the last two weeks. “Since Walters’ age and health concerns are not so serious as to keep him off the links, they should not provide a basis to keep him out of jail.”

Walters is/was good friends with pro golfer Phil Mickelson, who, like Walters, is known to enjoy a wager. Mickelson was part of the original investigation into Walters’ trading activity but Lefty managed to wriggle free of prosecutors’ grip after agreeing to repay slightly more than $1m in profit and interest on the trades he made based on discussions with Walters.


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Hearing is believing: Speech may be a clue to mental decline

Your speech may, um, help reveal if you’re uh … developing thinking problems. More pauses, filler words and other verbal changes might be an early sign of mental decline, which can lead to Alzheimer’s disease, a study suggests.

Researchers had people describe a picture they were shown in taped sessions two years apart. Those with early-stage mild cognitive impairment slid much faster on certain verbal skills than those who didn’t develop thinking problems.

“What we’ve discovered here is there are aspects of language that are affected earlier than we thought,” before or at the same time that memory problems emerge, said one study leader, Sterling Johnson of the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

This was the largest study ever done of speech analysis for this purpose, and if more testing confirms its value, it might offer a simple, cheap way to help screen people for very early signs of mental decline.

Don’t panic: Lots of people say “um” and have trouble quickly recalling names as they age, and that doesn’t mean trouble is on the way.

“In normal aging, it’s something that may come back to you later and it’s not going to disrupt the whole conversation,” another study leader, Kimberly Mueller, explained. “The difference here is, it is more frequent in a short period,” interferes with communication and gets worse over time.

The study was discussed Monday at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in London.

About 47 million people worldwide have dementia, and Alzheimer’s is the most common type. In the U.S., about 5.5 million people have the disease. Current drugs can’t slow or reverse it, just ease symptoms. Doctors think treatment might need to start sooner to do any good, so there’s a push to find early signs.

Mild cognitive impairment causes changes that are noticeable to the person or others, but not enough to interfere with daily life. It doesn’t mean these folks will develop Alzheimer’s, but many do — 15 to 20 percent per year.

To see if speech analysis can find early signs, researchers first did the picture-description test on 400 people without cognitive problems and saw no change over time in verbal skills. Next, they tested 264 participants in the Wisconsin Registry for Alzheimer’s Prevention, a long-running study of people in their 50s and 60s, most of whom have a parent with Alzheimer’s and might be at higher risk for the disease themselves. Of those, 64 already had signs of early decline or developed it over the next two years, according to other neurological tests they took.

In the second round of tests , they declined faster on content (ideas they expressed) and fluency (the flow of speech and how many pauses and filler words they used.) They used more pronouns such as “it” or “they” instead of specific names for things, spoke in shorter sentences and took longer to convey what they had to say.

“Those are all indicators of struggling with that computational load that the brain has to conduct” and supports the role of this test to detect decline, said Julie Liss, a speech expert at Arizona State University with no role in the work.

She helped lead a study in 2015 that analyzed dozens of press conferences by former President Ronald Reagan and found evidence of speech changes more than a decade before he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. She also co-founded a company that analyzes speech for many neurological problems, including dementia, traumatic brain injury and Parkinson’s disease.

Researchers could not estimate the cost of testing for a single patient, but for a doctor to offer it requires only a digital tape recorder and a computer program or app to analyze results.

Alan Sweet, 72, a retired state of Wisconsin worker who lives in Madison, is taking part in the study and had the speech test earlier this month. His father had Alzheimer’s and his mother had a different type of dementia, Lewy body.

“Watching my parents decline into the awful world of dementia and being responsible for their medical care was the best and worst experience of my life,” he said. “I want to help the researchers learn, furthering medical knowledge of treatment and ultimately, cure.”

Participants don’t get individual results — it just aids science.

Another study at the conference on Monday, led by doctoral student Taylor Fields, hints that hearing loss may be another clue to possible mental decline. It involved 783 people from the same Wisconsin registry project. Those who said at the start of the study that they had been diagnosed with hearing loss were more than twice as likely to develop mild cognitive impairment over the next five years as those who did not start out with a hearing problem.

That sort of information is not strong evidence, but it fits with earlier work along those lines.

Family doctors “can do a lot to help us if they knew what to look for” to catch early signs of decline, said Maria Carrillo, the Alzheimer’s Association’s chief science officer. Hearing loss, verbal changes and other known risks such as sleep problems might warrant a referral to a neurologist for a dementia check, she said.


Audio of example test: http://bit.ly/2sZklbU


Marilynn Marchione can be followed on Twitter: @MMarchioneAP

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Leading IBM engineer to reveal blockchain application in energetics at Blockchain & Bitcoin Conference Stockholm

On September 7, Stockholm will host Sweden’s first major conference dedicated to cryptocurrencies and blockchain technologies: Blockchain & Bitcoin Conference Stockholm.

Leading IBM engineer to reveal blockchain application in energetics at Blockchain & Bitcoin Conference StockholmThe event is a part of the greatest network of events held by Smile-Expo in St. Petersburg, Moscow, Prague, Tallinn, and Kyiv. 
Stockholm will bring together foreign experts and representatives of Swedish cryptocurrency community to discuss cryptocurrency legal regulation, blockchain application in the FinTech and non-financial sector. Speakers will tell the audience about the role of smart contracts in decentralized economy, creation and development of blockchain projects as well as discuss Swedish market growth.

The country has been already used the record system for land titles based on the smart contract technology. And in June, one announced a new project in government energetics: the department of Vattenfall government corporation in cooperation with 20 European companies started developing a new blockchain-based platform for electronics trading.

Energetics is considered to be one of the most prospective areas for the blockchain industry. Thus, Sweden’s experience in successful project implementation will be adopted by many European and world’s countries.

Karolina Marzantowicz, leading IBM engineer, will talk about the ways of applying distributed databases and smart contracts in the energetic sector at Blockchain & Bitcoin Conference Stockholm. The topic of her presentation: Blockchain impact on Energy & Utilities industry.

Within her presentation, the expert will reveal in detail mechanisms of technology application in the energy selling sector and electric power system changes caused by blockchain, including cost saving, avoiding third parties, and more transparent price formation.

We would like to note that the conference includes the exhibition of blockchain projects, cryptocurrency mining hardware and software.

More detailed information and registration can be found on the Blockchain & Bitcoin Conference Stockholm website.


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Court allows mystery Coinbase customer to challenge IRS summons

A federal court has upbraided the U.S. Internal Revenue Service for seeking to get ahold of an unprecedented number of bitcoin customer records.

Last year, a California district court allowed the tax agency to require San Francisco-based digital currency exchange Coinbase to submit records of all transactions that took place from 2013 to 2015 as part of an investigation into possible tax fraud in the country. The bitcoin company, however, fought back in court, where it was joined by several anonymous customers.

Court allows mystery Coinbase customer to challenge IRS summonsNow, one of those customers has been allowed by the court to challenge the IRS summon.

In a 12-page ruling, U.S. Magistrate Judge Jacqueline Corley agreed to let the customer, identified as John Doe 4 in the documents, to intervene in the court proceeding on grounds that the customer “made a sufficient showing of an abuse of process to support intervention as of right.”

The scope IRS probe has drawn fire from the bitcoin exchange, its customers, as well as several lawmakers, who pointed out that the agency may have been overstepping its powers.

In her ruling, Corley berated the tax agency for not offering any explanation on how it “can legitimately use most of these millions of records on hundreds of thousands of users.”

“Under that reasoning the IRS could request bank records for every United States customer from every bank branch in the United States because it is well known that tax liabilities in general are under reported and such records might turn up tax liabilities,” the judge stated.

The tax agency has narrowed down the criteria of its summons to disqualify the other Coinbase customers—John Doe 1, 2 and 3—who have filed motions to intervene. The summons has been modified to focus on users who had engaged in a bitcoin-related transaction “at least the equivalent of $20,000” between 2013 and 2015.

The court, however, let John Doe 4 proceed anonymously because he met all the four factors set to determine whether his right to intervene should be granted.

“It is thus no surprise that the IRS cannot cite a single case that supports such broad discretion to obtain the records of every bank-account holding American. While the narrowed summons may seek many fewer records, the parties agreed to have the court decide the motion on the original record, and so it has,” the ruling stated.

Current bitcoin price

Bitcoin continues to claw back towards its all-time high, trading at $2,775.96 on Friday.


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Macau junkets seek higher capital reserves for new operators

macau-junket-operator-capital-reserveMacau casino junket operators should be required to maintain significantly higher capital reserves to keep pace with the resurgent VIP gambling market and ensure investor confidence, according to a local junket rep.

On Sunday, Macau broadcaster TDM featured an interview with Kwok Chi Chung, the head of Macau’s Association of Gaming and Entertainment Promoters, which represents junket interests in the world’s top casino gambling hub.

The current capital deposit threshold for Macau-registered junkets is a mere MOP 100k (US $12,500). In April 2016, Macau’s Gaming Inspection and Coordination Bureau proposed boosting this sum to MOP 10m ($1.25m). On Sunday, Kwok went even further, suggesting the reserve fund should be raised to MOP 50m ($6.2m) to ensure new junkets are capable of withstanding the occasionally wild variance of Macau’s VIP gambling market.

The following day, Kwok told GGRAsia that the increased capital requirements were needed to keep pace with the “multibillions” of patacas that many Macau junkets were turning over on a monthly basis. Kwok said the roughly 120 registered junkets that survived Macau’s recent downturn “would not be affected” by the change.

More importantly, the requirement to maintain a larger capital reserve could discourage some sketchier would-be junkets from throwing their hat into the ring. Macau’s junket industry suffered a crisis of investor confidence a few years back when a host of operators folded due to a lack of liquidity and numerous internal theft scandals.

Kwok said his group had also urged the DICJ to require licensing for junket “collaborators,” i.e. associates who help rope in new VIP gamblers and arrange both credit and payments of gambling debts.

A boosted capital requirement wouldn’t have prevented three mainland Chinese men from being scammed by a couple of con artists posting as junket operators. On Tuesday, the Macau Daily Times reported that local police had arrested a man named Song who, along with an accomplice, conned the mainlanders out of HKD 200k ($25,600).

Earlier this spring, Song reportedly told the mainlanders that he was a junket promoter and could provide free food and lodging at a Cotai hotel. Once the men had checked in, Song took them to dinner, then took their money and said he and his partner would be back with casino chips. Only they never returned.

The mainlanders reported Song to the local police, and Song was busted last week while trying to re-enter Macau. Song copped to his guilt in the scam but claimed his share of the stolen funds amounted to only HKD 10k, while his accomplice, who remains at large, kept the rest.


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UK court sets new hearing in case of terminally ill baby

A British court on Monday gave the parents of 11-month-old Charlie Gard a chance to present fresh evidence that their terminally ill son should receive experimental treatment.

The decision came after an emotionally charged hearing in the wrenching case, during which Gard’s mother wept in frustration and his father yelled at a lawyer.

Judge Nicholas Francis gave the couple until Wednesday afternoon to present the evidence and set a new hearing for Thursday in a case that has drawn international attention.

But the judge insisted there had to be “new and powerful” evidence to reverse earlier rulings that barred Charlie from traveling abroad for treatment and authorized London’s Great Ormond Street Hospital to take him off life support.

“There is not a person alive who would not want to save Charlie,” Francis said. “If there is new evidence I will hear it.”

Charlie suffers from mitochondrial depletion syndrome, a rare genetic disease that has left him brain damaged and unable to breathe unaided. His parents want to bring him abroad for experimental therapy, which they say offers their son a chance of improvement.

But British and European courts have sided with the hospital’s decision that the 11-month-old’s life support should end, saying therapy would not help and would cause more suffering.

The re-opening of the case at London’s High Court may allow Charlie to receive the experimental treatment at his current hospital or abroad.

Great Ormond Street Hospital applied for another court hearing because of “new evidence relating to potential treatment for his condition.”

The evidence came from researchers at the Vatican’s children’s hospital and another facility outside of Britain.

The application came after both Pope Francis and President Donald Trump fueled international attention to the case, with hospitals in Rome and the U.S. offering to provide Charlie the experimental therapy.

The case pits the rights of parents to decide what’s best for their children against the authorities with responsibility for ensuring that people who can’t speak for themselves receive the most appropriate care.

Under British law, it is normal for courts to intervene when parents and doctors disagree on the treatment of a child — such as cases where a parent’s religious beliefs prohibit blood transfusions. The rights of the child take primacy, rather than the rights of parents to make the call.

Charlie’s parents, Chris Gard and Connie Yates, have received wide public support, while right-to-life groups have intervened in their cause. Americans United for Life chief executive Catherine Glenn Foster was in London on Monday to support the couple.

“Today is a victory for poor Charlie and Chris and Connie over Great Ormond Street Hospital,” Foster said after the judge ruled. “There is a tremendous amount of hope here.”

A petition supporting Charlie’s right to treatment has garnered around 350,000 signatures and more than 1.3 million pounds ($1.7 million) have been raised online for his case.

Charlie’s parents were overcome with emotion during Monday’s hearing. At one point, the baby’s father, Chris Gard, yelled at a barrister representing the hospital: “When are you going to start telling the truth?”

The baby’s mother, Connie Yates, added: “It’s really difficult.”

“He is our son. Please listen to us,” she said.

Francis — who also ruled on an earlier chapter in the case — said everyone involved in the case wanted the best for Charlie. He rejected an attempt by the child’s parents to have another judge hear the new evidence.

“I did my job,” he said. “I will continue to do my job.”

Before Monday’s hearing, Connie Yates told Sky News that she wanted judges to listen to experts on her son’s condition who say the treatment might help.

The mother said seven specialists from around the world have expressed support for continued treatment and told her it has an “up to 10 percent chance of working.”

“I hope they can see there is more of a chance than previously thought and hope they trust us as parents and trust the other doctors,” she said.


Danica Kirka and Jill Lawless contributed to this story. ——— This story has been corrected to show that the surname of the CEO of Americans United for Life is Foster, not Glenn.

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Resorts World Casino starts $400M New York expansion plan

Malaysia-listed conglomerate Genting BHD has given the US market a vote of confidence as it starts its expansion plans in New York.

Resorts World Casino starts $400M New York expansion plan

Genting has broken ground on a $400 million expansion of Resorts World Casinos New York (RWNY), six years after the casino operator opened its integrated resort in the Big Apple.

Scott Molina, the president of RWNY, said the expansion will bring out the potential of its gaming facility, especially since the property does not currently offer hotel accomodation. The company hopes to complete the expansion plan by mid-2019.

The expansion project, according to Molina, includes the construction of a new 400-room four-star hotel with suites that will rival Manhattan’s finest accommodations; a 2,000-sq.ft. spa and resort; another 140,000 sq.ft. of convention and meeting space; plus additional room for retail, food, and casino expansion.

Also in the pipeline is the addition of 1,000 video-lottery terminals, Molina said.

“The expansion will serve as an economic engine for our local community and the State, create more good-paying jobs for local residents, and generate significant revenue for New York State’s Lottery Education Fund,” Molina said in a press release. “We look forward to continuing to work with our local and state partners whose unwavering support has helped turn this vision into a reality.”

True enough, the casino expansion is estimated to generate $200 million in economic activity for New York. It is also expected to hire 3,000 people for construction jobs and at least 1,000 permanent jobs for New Yorkers.

At present, the integrated resort has created more than 1,100 good-paying careers, with more than half of the employees from the surrounding area, and has fostered significant economic development throughout the Queens community.

The expansion project has pushed the total tag price of RWNY to over $1.1 billion since opening in October 2011. It will be recalled that RWNY shelled out $700 million to retrofit the existing Aqueduct grandstand as it aims to be a leading entertainment destination.


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Sands Bethlehem fined $150k for 10 underage gambling incidents

sands-bethlehem-underage-gambling-drinkingStop us if you’ve heard this one already, but Las Vegas Sands’ Pennsylvania casino has been caught (again) letting young ‘uns gamble and drink.

On Wednesday, the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) announced a whopping $182,500 in fines against three of its licensees, although the bulk ($150k) was leveled against Las Vegas Sands’ Sands Bethlehem property for underage gaming violations.

As detailed by the PGCB, Sands Bethlehem was cited for no less than 10 separate incidents over a roughly five-month span in which individuals as young as 16 years old were able to gain access to the casino’s gaming floor, where they proceeded to wager at slot machines and gaming tables.

One 20-year-old female gained access to Sands Bethlehem’s gaming floor on three separate occasions during a single day, during which she managed to play some slots and quaff some booze. Another 20-year-old female enjoyed a similar slots-and-hooch cocktail in a separate incident, while also throwing in some table game action as a chaser.

The PGCB noted that all 10 incidents were self-reported by the casino, which has gained a reputation as Pennsylvania’s premier destination for underage gamblers. In the most recent report this January, Sands Bethlehem was fined $50k for four underage violations, including a 19-year-old male whose fake ID claimed he was 33.

Sands introduced new ID scanning technology in March and the property’s general counsel Michael Magazzu told the PGCB that he’d “love to tell you we have had a perfect record since March 13, but that is not the case.” Magazzu warned that “even with the best technology, it’s very difficult to prevent” minors gaining access to the gaming floor.

The irony is, of course, delicious, given Sands’ owner Sheldon Adelson’s oft-repeated mantra that online gambling sites should be banned because they lack the capacity to determine whether their customers are old enough to legally wager.

As videos produced by the Adelson-funded Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling (CSIG) make clear, “don’t let anyone tell you that there’s technology that can fully protect our children” from finding ways to gamble online. But if those kids also want to drink booze, they’ll have to go to Sands Bethlehem.


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WATCH: Is Zika virus still a danger?

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“id”:48437389,”title”:”Is Zika virus still a danger?”,”duration”:”1:05″,”description”:”Since 2015, 1,654 babies have been born in the U.S. to women who contracted Zika, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.”,”url”:”/Health/video/zika-virus-danger-48437389″,”section”:”Health”,”mediaType”:”default”

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