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The winners and the losers: Forensic technology

Published: Saturday, Sept. 21 2013 12:00 a.m. MDT

Winner: The great thing about forensic technology is that, as it develops and improves, law enforcement can begin to solve cases that have long sat dormant. That happened recently concerning the 1995 murder of Krystal Lynn Beslanowitch, a 17-year-old whose death had long baffled police in Wasatch County. Now they have arrested Joseph Michael Simpson in connection with that killing. Authorities believe his DNA matches that collected from the murder weapon and other evidence at the scene of the crime. A computerized database made the match. Simpson already served time in Utah for a different murder but was recently living in Florida with his mother. Just as important as new technology is the knowledge that police departments have not given up on old, unsolved cases.

Loser: It could well be that the media overplayed the racist Twitter comments that spewed forth in response to the crowning of Nina Davuluri as Miss America last weekend. Davuluri, from Syracuse, N.Y., has a heritage that reaches back to India. Twitter comments ran the usual line of ignorant bigotry, with some linking her to terrorism and others wishing the judges would crown someone Caucasian. In reality, the racists seemed to be a relatively small minority who were drowned out about an hour later by more reasonable voices. They are evidence, however, that old attitudes die hard among some. There are plenty of reasons to criticize the very notion of beauty pageants, which tend to celebrate a common notion of outward beauty more than anything else, but Miss America contestants these days seem to represent the diversity of the nation's population quite well.

Winner: Utah had a $242 million surplus as it ended the 2013 fiscal year. This doesn't differ much from what many states are experiencing, in contrast to recent deficits, but it is good news none the less. Some experts warn that the excess may be temporary as problems in Washington lead to a reduction in federal support for education and other programs administered on the state level. Also, some taxpayers may have loaded their obligations onto 2012's tax bills to avoid changes in federal tax structures, making the surplus little more than an illusion. That may not be true in Utah, but the prudent thing would be to put the money away or spend it on one-time projects, not use it to expand programs that will require an ongoing commitment of funds. Gov. Gary Herbert was wise to do just that, putting $120 million of Utah's surplus into the Education Rainy Day Fund. The rest will be used for one-time education needs. We hope the good times continue, but we also hope no one banks on that.

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