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LOST, 54 MILES OF CANDY A DAY



Published: Wed, January 30, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



LOST, 54 MILES OF CANDY A DAY

Los Angeles Times: First off, Canadians are swell neighbors. They keep to their own yard and don't blare the radio. Canadians make good wood, beer and glaciers. They've had good inventions too: basketball, hockey, Pablum, Canada Dry, insulin and the banana split, any of which could be an answer when using another Canadian invention, Trivial Pursuit. But they've gone a bit too far now: Canada is kidnapping the manufacture of LifeSavers, that hallowed hard-candy American institution that's fueled family outings for generations.

Kraft Foods Inc. announced it will soon stop making LifeSavers in the United States of America and move that operation to Quebec. Make all the engine blocks and jeans you want in Mexico, but LifeSavers offshored to Canada?C'mon, that leaves a sour taste.

LifeSavers have been an American-made tradition since Clarence Crane, a Cleveland confectioner, wanted to boost candy sales in the summer, a bad time for chocolate in the pre-refrigeration days of 1912. If you're over 90, you may recall 1912's other big news: the Titanic. Disdaining the pillow-shaped globs of fancy European goodies, Crane hired a pill maker to design an original shape, settling on little disks with a hole in the middle, like the lifesavers then on everyone's mind.

Peppermint: Originally a health mint ("For that stormy breath!"), peppermint LifeSavers entered millions of pockets and purses. Over the years, 24 more flavors were added (Wild Cherry, 1934; Five Flavors, 1935; Butterscotch, 1951). Others were abandoned (Anise, 1934; Molas-O-Mint, 1942, and Root Beer, 1968).

No one could count the sibling spats over who wins the red ones or gets stuck with the green ones, or the roulette games over which end of the roll starts with a favorite flavor. How do you properly close the cylinder (are you a ripper or a folder?). What else do you do with LifeSavers (hold up cake candles, flavor cups of tea)? And then comes the important debate over crunching versus sucking; one enhances consumption, the other appreciation.

Either way, 46 billion LifeSavers are consumed annually, 54 miles of little round lozenges per day, all now forged in Holland, Mich. Next year the secret formula will be made only near Montreal, in a nonunion plant with duty-free access to cheaper Cuban sugar; saving 10 cents a pound adds up when you're using 113 tons a day.

Selling satellite technology to China is one thing; entrusting LifeSavers' secret Wild Cherry formula to Canadians is another. Next thing you know, Canadians will be luring producers to make Hollywood movies up north because it's cheaper.

U.S. HAS A PR PROBLEM TO TACKLE

Dallas Morning News: The images seemed revealing: blindfolded and shackled Taliban and Al-Qaida prisoners detained in small open-air cells at Guantanamo Bay.

Even more revealing is the world's outcry to these photos. In a snap judgment, human rights groups and the governments of several nations have accused the United States of mistreating these prisoners. The criticisms have been hostile, harsh and inaccurate, with words like "barbarism" and "tortured" being uttered all too indiscriminately.

For sure, the world has offered less venomous comment for far worse behavior than the imprisonment of terrorists. Taliban and Al-Qaida prisoners are among the world's most dangerous and committed criminals, an organized population that requires extraordinary security precautions.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld says the treatment is proper, humane and consistent with international conventions. The prisoners receive medical treatment and practice their religion. They receive culturally appropriate meals three times a day.

The shackles and blindfolds were for security during a long, dangerous journey from Afghanistan. They were removed before the prisoners were placed into cells. The cells the prisoners occupy are temporary, and military teams are clearing land for an air-conditioned medical facility. Guantanamo Bay is not a country club, but neither is it a dank, inhumane dungeon.

Truth: The allegation delivers a public relations setback, however. The administration must counter it with the truth and prevent distortions from undermining the international coalition against terror. Toward that end, the administration also needs to clarify the legal status of the detainees and the legal venue it will employ to bring these people to justice.

To date, the United States has described these captives as "unlawful combatants," "battlefield detainees" and other terms that cloud their legal status. The United States hasn't made it clear whether the prisoners will be treated formally as prisoners of war, be subject to civilian courts or face military tribunals. This uncertainty gives fodder to long-distance criticisms of U.S. treatment of detainees.

Under the Geneva Conventions, prisoners of war would have to be tried for war crimes in courts-martial or civilian courts, but not before military tribunals. The Bush administration wants the option to try detainees in military tribunals. The Europeans also oppose military tribunals, which presumably would allow death as punishment.

The United States is confronting the difficult tasks of holding prisoners who are terrorists while also fighting a stealthy, elusive enemy.




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