- The Washington Times - Friday, September 5, 2003

The safety of silicone

When he was researching his piece (“NOW seeks to deny a choice,” Commentary, Tuesday), Michael Fumento apparently did not read the scientific consensus document put forth by the National Organization for Women (NOW) regarding silicone breast implants.

If he had, he would have found that (as appears on the first page of our report), NOW fully supports women’s rights to make choices about their own bodies, but if important information is withheld, having a choice is meaningless. That is precisely why we are involved in this issue.

This October, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will consider less than three years of data about silicone gel breast implants, not the more than 1,000 studies reviewed by the Institutes of Medicine (IOM) panel or the others released since 1999 mentioned by Mr. Fumento.

The IOM report makes clear that the great majority of implants fall apart in the body over time and that the side effects are painful and debilitating. On this there is no disagreement. In fact, the IOM found that the product failure and local tissue problems were so troubling that it was essential that women be fully informed about them — facts that Mr. Fumento conveniently left out of his piece.

The scientific community agrees that the vast majority of problems begin, on average, around seven to 10 years after implantation. Few studies, including those assessed by the IOM, looked at long-term health risks occurring more than five years after implantation.

If the FDA approves silicone gel breast implants using inadequate data, women will make this lifetime decision without knowing their implants are likely to rupture and leak or that painful local complications and repeat surgeries may be on the horizon.

KIM GANDY

President

NOW

Washington

Blackout, not nuke-out

While the politicization of last month’s electricity blackout could be anticipated easily, the exploitation of this event by Frank Gaffney Jr. to advance his views on the war on terrorism is repugnant (“The blackout next time,” Aug. 19, Commentary).

Mr. Gaffney employs the popular neoconservative technique of elevating the specter of fear within our nation to justify a military buildup, pre-emptive attacks on other nations and the development of advanced concept nuclear weapons — all in an attempt to force other nations to cower before the United States. What this peace-through-strength theme does, in fact, is force other nations to pursue the only viable alternative they can afford to deter aggression by the United States: nuclear weaponry.

So while he warns us of a terrorist-generated electromagnetic pulse (EMP) that could send our country back to pre-industrial-age conditions for months if not years, Mr. Gaffney, and other neocons, would be wise to rethink how their policies adopted by the current White House are accelerating global nuclear proliferation that could lead to the devastating EMP against which he warns us.

JOHN G. DUESLER JR.

Nuclear Policy Research Institute

Huntingdon Valley, Pa.

The right to an education?

Have I missed something here?

It reads like science fiction that those who are illegal are suing for guaranteed rights (“Illegals sue over college entrance,” Metropolitan, Thursday). This (misnamed) Immigrant Legal Rights Coalition seems to be from another planet.

They are asking, in essence, for special consideration instead of our legal right to deport them. Do I understand this correctly?

It is an insult to law-abiding legal immigrants to even consider bleeding tax funds for some who came here illegally and don’t pay taxes, anyway.

When will we understand that every right is earned, that finances are by definition limited, that rights are earned by responsible participation, and that no country can provide to even their own citizens everything that they would like to have?

RONALD S. BASHIAN

McLean

The outsourcing of manufacturing

I just read Alan Reynolds’ Sunday Commentary column, “Manufacturing myths.” Definitions are missing on just what is considered to be “manufacturing” in this argument.

If you consider, for example, Hewlett Packard to be a manufacturing company and therefore put its revenues into the U.S. manufacturing column, you’ll be kidding yourself. Very little that HP, Dell or many other high-tech manufacturers make is built in the United States. The exodus of actual, physical manufacturing throughout the high-tech supply chain has been moving slowly (and sometimes rapidly — the ‘70s and early ‘80s saw a breathtaking exodus of semiconductor assembly to Malaysia, the Philippines, etc.) out of this country for many years, and that trend has accelerated dramatically in the past two years for many component and semiconductor manufacturers and just about all board- and system-level manufacturers.

As of about a year ago, 30 percent of outsourced high-tech board- and system-level manufacturing — i.e., done by contract manufacturers (CMs) such as Solectron, Flextronics, Celestica, Sanmina-SCI Corp. and Jabil Circuit — was being done in such low-cost labor regions as China, Mexico and Eastern Europe, according to iSuppli Corp. (an industrial analysis firm). The target, according to chief executive officers of these top-tier CMs, is for that to reach 60 percent to 70 percent in 2004, with most of that going to China.

More and more U.S. high-tech companies that manufacture internally are closing U.S. plants and replacing them with plants in China or Mexico (see Kemet, for instance) or simply outsourcing the work to a CM in China or foundry in China, Taiwan or Singapore. That is what is meant by manufacturing to those of us in the manufacturing business, and that is the exodus of manufacturing that concerns us.

The article states, “Increases in productivity from improved machinery and skills are the reason manufacturing employment falls most of the time … .” In fact, increases in productivity have nothing to do with the movement of actual, physical manufacturing of tangible high-tech goods from the United States to China; the plants the CMs have built there are as automated as any here, and productivity is on par. It’s simply that building goods there is cheaper, or so it seems. This ain’t chicken feed, either. Contract manufacturing is expected to be a $140 billion business in 2004, doubling from 2002 levels in 2006 (again, according to iSuppli).

Regarding productivity of the Chinese, that’s irrelevant and also misleading, again because of the fact that the plants there are as automated as the U.S. factories they replace. U.S. jobs are going directly to China. A machine operator here is not replaced by 12 persons there, but by one.

Not to be concerned about the movement of leading-edge, high-tech manufacturing to China is not to be concerned about the future of U.S. technology leadership (I must confess I am not concerned about T-shirt manufacturing moving to China) or the ever-eroding ability of the United States to supply our own military/homeland security needs. (Go upstream in the supply chain: What percentage of ingots — which are used to make the semiconductor wafers processors need — originate in the United States? How many manufacturers of high-reliability ceramic packaging for semiconductors are based in and manufacture said packages in the United States?)

Technology leadership is dependent on manufacturing leadership. If we let go of the latter, we risk losing the former. Today, in addition to manufacturing jobs, we’re losing both high-paying software and electronics engineering and other white-collar, technical jobs at an alarming rate to China and India.

Silicon Valley’s unemployment rate officially stands at 8.5 percent; the real rate is 15 percent to 20 percent. Meanwhile, Motorola just announced that it will hire 1,500 engineers in India, not because their engineers are better than ours, but because they’re cheaper. This is something our country’s government, financial institutions and corporations must take seriously, because if we don’t, we will decline as a nation.

MICHAEL KIRSCHNER

San Francisco

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