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UConn is the big favorite in East regional. Florida Atlantic could be best sleeper pick

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UConn is the big favorite in East regional. Florida Atlantic could be best sleeper pick


Connecticut is the latest defending national champion to make a run at the most elite list in college basketball.

The top-overall seed in the men’s NCAA Tournament is looking to become the eighth program in Division I and first since Florida in 2006-7 to go back-to-back in the tournament era. The others are Oklahoma State (1945-46), Kentucky (1948-49), San Francisco (1955-56), Cincinnati (1961-62), UCLA (1964-65, 1967-73) and Duke (1991-92).

The Huskies will try to do so coming out of the East Region, where the stiffest competition should come from No. 2 Iowa State, the Big 12 tournament champion; No. 3 Illinois, the second-place team from the Big Ten; and No. 4 Auburn, winners of the SEC tournament.

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It’s a strong region. But no team in the country has looked as strong as UConn, the prohibitive favorites to repeat.

USA TODAY Sports breaks down the men’s NCAA Tournament East Region:

Best first-round matchup: Washington State vs. Drake

No. 7 Washington State is back in the tournament for the first since 2008 after going 24-9 and finishing second in the Pac-12 under coach Kyle Smith. Drake had another outstanding regular season — the Bulldogs have won at least 25 games in each of the past four years — but won the Missouri Valley tournament championship to land the No. 10 seed. Drake’s offense is one of the highest-scoring in program history but will be challenged by a WSU defense that hasn’t given up 80 points since a win against Washington on Feb. 3.

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Potential upset in first round: Auburn vs. Yale

No. 12 Alabama-Birmingham is hot enough to take down No. 5 San Diego State, though the Blazers’ play for the vast majority of the regular season doesn’t speak too well to their chances. Let’s go instead with No. 13 Yale finding a hot hand and taking down No. 4 Auburn, which had one of the cruelest tournament landing spots of any Power Six team. The Tigers were placed behind No. 3 Kentucky despite winning the SEC, for one, and worse yet will very likely have to tussle with one of the Huskies and Iowa State to get back to the Final Four behind coach Bruce Pearl.

The sleeper: Florida Atlantic

If for no other reason than the fact that FAU doesn’t lose NCAA Tournament games in New York. (If we’re counting all five boroughs, that is.) A year ago, the Owls punched their ticket to the Final Four out of Madison Square Garden in Manhattan. This time, the No. 8 Owls will get started at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center against No. 9 Northwestern before — gulp — taking on UConn. FAU struggled at times during the regular season as first-year members of the American but have the experienced roster and depth of production to make another March run in the Big Apple.

The winner: Connecticut

OK, so let’s get real: Anyone other than UConn winning the region and going to the Final Four would be a big surprise. (Anyone other than UConn winning the whole thing might be a big surprise, actually.) The Huskies are long, deep, explosive, dripping with athleticism and loaded with the sort of confidence you’d expect from the defending champs. The Huskies are built to handle the intensity of tournament play and will benefit from the depth developed while battling some injuries during the regular season.

NCAA Tournament East Region schedule

Thursday, March 21

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Omaha, Neb.

No. 2 Iowa State vs. No. 15 Dakota StateNo. 3 Illinois vs. No. 14 Morehead StateNo. 7 Washington State vs. No. 10 DrakeNo. 6 Brigham Young vs. No. 11 Duquesne

Friday, March 22

Brooklyn, NY

No. 1 Connecticut vs. No. 16 StetsonNo. 8 Florida Atlantic vs. No. 9 Northwestern

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Spokane, Wash.

No. 5 San Diego State vs. No. 12 Alabama-BirminghamNo. 4 Auburn vs. No. 13 Yale



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Connecticut

Connecticut Senate Passes AI Bias Bill Despite Tech Lobbying

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Connecticut Senate Passes AI Bias Bill Despite Tech Lobbying


Connecticut is closer to becoming the first state to make private companies consider the risks of the artificial intelligence products they sell to customers.

Legislation that would place guardrails on the emerging technology (SB 2) passed the state Senate on Wednesday. The bill heads to the state House of Representatives as legislators attempt to clear the measure before the May 8 end of the session.

The sweeping bill targets algorithmic bias when the technology enables discrimination including in housing and social services. It also aims to restrict AI-made deepfakes and the technology’s impact on the state’s labor pool. …



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Man accused of using Uber to bring girls from CT group home faces decades in prison for sex crimes

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Man accused of using Uber to bring girls from CT group home faces decades in prison for sex crimes


A 28-year old man has been accused of hiring a ride share service to pick up teenage girls living at a state-run group home in West Hartford and deliver them to hotels and shopping malls in Connecticut and New York where he filmed himself sexually abusing them.

Nicolas “Breezy” Brown, who is believed to live in New York City, faces decades in prison after being indicted this week on two child pornography charges by a federal grand jury in New Haven.

The FBI learned in mid-March from the state Department of Children and Families, the group home operator, that someone calling himself Breezy was hiring Uber drivers to pick up girls and deliver them “to different hotels throughout the state,” according to an FBI affidavit. Two of the girls, aged 15 and 16, are minors and one recently turned 18.

Fast rise in AI nudes of teens has unprepared schools, legal system scrambling for solutions

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Subsequent investigation developed evidence that Brown had been arranging, since March 5, to have the girls delivered to hotels and shopping malls where he filmed himself abusing them, according to the affidavit filed in U.S. District Court.

At one point early in March, the 15- and 16-year old girls stayed with Brown at Travelodge in South Hackensack, N.J. for four days. He had promised them a short term home rental in Manhattan, but diverted to New Jersey when that didn’t work out, according to the affidavit

The first interaction with the minor girls apparently took place at the Hilton Hotel in Hartford, where they remained with Brown for seven hours before West Hartford police interceded. The police learned the girls were at the hotel after questioning the Uber driver, but Brown escaped after the 18-year-old girl spotted police in the hotel lobby and tipped him off, according to the affidavit.

Brown is accused of abusing and filming girls at shopping malls or hotels on four more occasions before he was apprehended on March 20 by the FBI and police, who were tipped off by Uber that he was at a Quality Inn in Danbury waiting for girls to be dropped off. Brown tried but failed to escape by jumping out a second floor window, according to the affidavit.

Three spokesmen for the Department of Children and Families were not immediately available to discuss the case. Brown has been denied bail and is in custody.

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He is charged with production of child pornography, an offense that, if convicted, carries a mandatory minimum term of imprisonment of 15 years and a maximum term of imprisonment of 30 years, and with possessing and accessing with intent to view child pornography, an offense that carries a maximum term of imprisonment of 20 years.



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New Jersey is pushing local telecommuters who work for New York companies to appeal their Empire State tax bills

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New Jersey is pushing local telecommuters who work for New York companies to appeal their Empire State tax bills


Telecommuting, a pandemic-era novelty that has become a permanent alternative for many people, has some Connecticut and New Jersey employees of New York-based companies questioning why they still have to pay personal income tax to the Empire State.

Their home states are wondering as well.

Fed up with losing out on hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenue each year, New Jersey is now offering a state tax credit to residents who work from home and successfully appeal their New York tax assessment. Connecticut is considering a similar measure.

The Garden State’s bounty — a rebate worth roughly half a person’s refund of income taxes they paid to New York for the 2020-2023 period — has been claimed so far by one winning litigant since the state made the offer in July, according to the state’s Division of Taxation. That taxpayer received a $7,797.02 refund for their efforts. Officials hope that person’s windfall will encourage others to follow suit.

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Another New Jersey resident who is taking up the state’s offer is Open Weaver Banks, a tax attorney who prefers working from home to braving an “awful” commute into the Big Apple. She’s also filed one of a growing number of similar challenges.

“The process of doing the refund and the appeal isn’t all that intimidating to me,” said Banks, a tax partner at Hodgson Russ LLP. “I’m on New Jersey’s team here. I would like to see more residents doing this. I think they have a really fair point.”

New York requires out-of-state commuters who work for New York-based companies to pay New York income taxes, even if they’ve stopped physically going in to the office most days a week, unless they can satisfy very strict requirements for what constitutes a bona fide home office.

A home office near a specialized track to test new cars, for example, might qualify if it couldn’t be replicated in New York. But a worker with specialized scientific equipment set up in their home that could be duplicated over the border would still have to pay, according to a memorandum from the New York State Department of Taxation.

When the nature of work was upended in 2020, New York should have “softened” these requirements, Banks said. “And they didn’t. They are just standing by and fighting the claims.”

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Both neighboring states have implemented “retaliatory” tax rules that affect New Yorkers who work remotely for Connecticut or New Jersey-based companies, but these workforces are far smaller and their overall tax payments don’t make up the difference.

Out-of-state taxpayers paid New York nearly $8.8 billion in 2021 in taxes, roughly 15% of the state’s total income tax revenues, according to the Citizens Budget Commission in New York. Of that, $4.3 billion came from New Jersey taxpayers and $1.5 billion from Connecticut taxpayers.

It’s unclear how much of that was earned at home. But out-of-state employees of New York-based companies who work remotely are increasingly appealing their tax bills, Amanda Hiller, the acting commissioner and general counsel for the New York Department of Taxation and Finance, told state legislators recently.

Hiller acknowledged that New York’s decades-old policy, known as a “convenience of the employer rule,” has created a financial burden for New Jersey and Connecticut, which provide tax credits to their residents for the income taxes they’ve paid New York so they are not double-taxed.

New Jersey’s Division of Taxation said the state’s long-term goal is to have New York’s rule overturned entirely, something that will likely require a taxpayer’s legal challenge to succeed before the U.S. Supreme Court. That could be a tall order: New Hampshire tried to sue Massachusetts for temporarily collecting income tax from roughly 80,000 of its residents who worked from home during the pandemic, and the Supreme Court rejected the complaint without comment.

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Officials in New Jersey estimate it could reap as much as $1.2 billion annually if residents working from home for New York companies are taxed at home. Connecticut could recoup about $200 million, its officials say.

Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont has proposed an initiative similar to New Jersey’s that needs final legislative approval. It’s unclear, however, whether it can pass before the session ends May 8.

“We think it’s an unconstitutional overreach by the state of New York,” Jeffrey Beckham, secretary of Connecticut’s state budget office, said recently. “We think our residents should paying tax to us and they’d be paying at a lower rate.”

Indeed, the top marginal state income tax rate, as of Jan. 1, for individuals in New York is 10.90%. Connecticut’s top rate is 6.99% and New Jersey’s is 10.75%, according to the Tax Foundation.

“An awful lot of people are hurt by these laws,” said Edward Zelinsky, a Connecticut resident, tax law expert and professor at Yeshiva University’s Cardozo School of Law in New York City. “While New York and other states like to pretend that these are wealthy people, the people who are most hurt by this rule are often people of modest income, middle income, people who can’t afford lawyers.”

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Zelinksy has been trying, so far without success, to challenge New York’s tax rule for about 20 years, including a pending case over the income he earned working from home while his school was closed due to COVID-19 restrictions.

A small number of states, including Arkansas, Delaware, Nebraska and Pennsylvania, have tax rules similar to New York’s. New Jersey and Pennsylvania have a reciprocal income tax agreement.

Andrew Sidamon-Eristoff, who is in the unique position of being the former New Jersey state treasurer and a former New York commissioner of taxation and finance, believes eventually the right litigant will “get it before the right court to challenge it.”

But former New Jersey state Sen. Steven Oroho, an accountant who commuted for nearly two decades into New York City and who pushed as a legislator to address the inequity, said he’s skeptical of New Jersey’s commitment to the effort, which puts the financial onus of a potentially lengthy and expensive legal challenge on the individual taxpayer.

“New York is very, very aggressive and unfortunately, in my view,” said Oroho, “New Jersey has been extremely passive.”

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