The sequester is just as destructive as we thought

Congress-louse Hal Rogers (R-KY) pretends he had no idea there would be airport delays

Remember the sequester? When seven weeks ago the deadline to find a federal budget compromise came and went, there was much handwringing in Washington. In the event that no agreement was found there were to be cuts to public spending so severe and painful that no one would dare fail to agree. To deter Republicans from holding out, half the immediate spending savings of $85.4 billion was to be found from the defense budget, and, to ensure Democrats would work to find a deal, half from annually funded federal programs. Despite these encouragements to fiscal discipline, the March 1 deadline came and went.

…This week the sequester broke surface when it began affecting air travel, causing long delays at airports, which is to be expected when you send 1,500 air traffic controllers home without pay. One in 10 controllers will stay at home on unpaid leave every day until October. With the vacation season looming, crowded airports full of frustrated passengers will become commonplace…

Postponing medical research sounds victimless, but it is not if you are among those helped when a new drug comes onstream. It is impossible to list those who will miss new treatments by a year or so but will continue suffering, or even die, as a consequence of the delay. More easy to picture are the thousands of cancer patients being turned away from hospitals because of the cuts. For a cancer center on Long Island, that means not administering the most expensive drugs and telling one-third of its 16,000 patients on Medicare it will no longer treat them…

So far, the sequester appears to have pleased no one, except perhaps those fiscal hawks who agree to anything so long as the federal government is shrunk. The cuts are blind, irrational, hastily arranged, uncaring, arbitrary and dangerous. They are to good economic management what chain-saw sculpture is to Michelangelo’s David…

Although the federal government is reluctant to put a GDP figure on the cost of Hurricane Sandy, it and anticipation of the sequester drove American growth in the final quarter of 2012 into the red for the first time in 14 months. Even with Sandy, growth dropped by just 0.1 percent. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that the sequester alone will cost 0.6 percent in GDP this year. The cuts are not merely the enemy of good economic management but an automatic depressant upon the nation’s economic health.

weak lawmakers, true to form, are hoping to avoid having to make a decision by busily trying to exempt their pet projects and favorite causes from the sequester. The list of those lobbying to be taken off the hit list includes the homeland security department, drug and pharmaceutical companies, and medical equipment suppliers. But money saved on exemptions must be made up by cuts to other federal programs, only increasing the agony.

It is a mark of how dysfunctional Congress has become that even the failed bipartisan negotiations over gun control count as an optimistic sign that other matters, such as defanging the sequester, could be fixed through negotiation and compromise. Until that happens, we must impotently watch as essential government services slow down and seize up, and as Americans, particularly those at the bottom of the heap, cry out in pain.

Wapshott finished the original piece with a snappy remark about air traffic delays. But, we cynics got what we expected – an emergency bill sorting the lack of air traffic controllers. Too many hacks in business class were delayed. Sufficient threat to politicos anticipating those donations from corporations-as-individuals.

And so it goes. A temporary solution designed to force intransigent Republicans and gutless Democrats into conflict resolution – once again – didn’t comprehend the capacity of Washington slime to gestate a new mutant strain of corruption.

Stupid decision of the day

Saudi Arabia expelled three Emiratis for being too handsome…The Emirati men were expelled from the country on Sunday, by Saudi religious police while attending an annual culture show — the Jenadriyah Heritage and Culture Festival — in the capital of Riyadh, according to the website of Arab language Elaph newspaper.

“A festival official said the three Emiratis were taken out on the grounds they are too handsome and that the Commission members feared female visitors could fall for them,” the newspaper said. The commission referred to is for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vices.

The three men were immediately deported to Abu Dhabi.

Dubai-based Emirates 24/7, however, has reported that the expulsion was promoted by the presence of an Emirati woman artist at its exhibition at the festival, which would suggest Saudi officials were upset by a mixing of the sexes at the event.

Under Saudi custom and law, unrelated men and women are forbidden to interact.

Religions, cultures, states governed by such archaic foolishness are destined to wither and die on the vine of history. They may have sufficient gold to buy themselves extra time; but, as life progresses and education manages to accumulate even among the least of us, the corrupt and kingly who rely on walls of ignorance to prop up their rule – will fall.

Clues to risk of autism measurable by creases in placenta

Dr. Harvey J. Kliman, research scientist at Yale School of Medicine, initiated study

A new study raises the possibility that analyzing the placenta after birth may provide clues to a child’s risk for developing autism. The study, which analyzed placentas from 217 births, found that in families at high genetic risk for having an autistic child, placentas were significantly more likely to have abnormal folds and creases.

“It’s quite stark,” said Dr. Cheryl K. Walker, an obstetrician-gynecologist at the Mind Institute at the University of California, Davis, and a co-author of the study, published in the journal Biological Psychiatry. “Placentas from babies at risk for autism, clearly there’s something quite different about them.”

Researchers will not know until at least next year how many of the children, who are between 2 and 5, whose placentas were studied will be found to have autism. Experts said, however, that if researchers find that children with autism had more placental folds, called trophoblast inclusions, visible after birth, the condition could become an early indicator or biomarker for babies at high risk for the disorder…

The research potentially marks a new frontier, not only for autism, but also for the significance of the placenta, long considered an after-birth afterthought. Now, only 10 percent to 15 percent of placentas are analyzed, usually after pregnancy complications or a newborn’s death…

Dr. Jonathan L. Hecht, associate professor of pathology at Harvard Medical School, said the study was intriguing and “probably true if it finds an association between these trophoblast inclusions and autism.” But he said that inclusions were the placenta’s way of responding to many kinds of stress, so they might turn out not to be specific enough to predict autism.

Dr. Harvey Kliman calls inclusions a “check-engine light, a marker of: something’s wrong, but I don’t know what it is.”

If you keep on driving your car after the warning lights come on – well, the expense, the possible failure of your automobile is your own fault. One would hope you pay at least as much attention to warning signs about your children.