[ OUR OPINION ]
Caution is best
PRESIDENT Bush is reluctant to send troops to lead an international force into Liberia, and for good reason. American troops already are spread thin in Iraq and Afghanistan, and they don't need to be caught between rebel factions that could easily turn on each other following any departure of Liberia's warlord president, Charles Taylor. Secretary of State Colin Powell's suggestion that West African troops lead the way is preferable to a U.S.-led force.
President Bush is considering whether to send troops to Liberia to enforce a cease-fire.
Secretary Powell said the administration's preference is that 1,000 troops offered by the 15-nation Economic Community of West African States lead a military force aimed at enforcing the fragile cease-fire that now exists in Liberia, "with the U.S. essentially playing a role of support." A U.S. "humanitarian assistance team" of 32 experts, all but one of them soldiers, landed in Liberia earlier this week to assess the situation and is expected to report back to the president after this weekend.
Proponents of U.S. leadership in Liberia liken it to recent situations in which Britain sent military units into Sierra Leone and France dispatched troops to Ivory Coast to end civil warfare. However, those African nations were once colonies of Britain and France and retain close ties -- more so than a relationship based on the fact that Liberia was founded more than 150 years ago by freed American slaves.
A more frightening model for U.S. intervention in Liberia is the experience in Somalia, where American forces embarked on a humanitarian mission a decade ago. U.S. helicopters were shot down and 18 Army Rangers were killed, some dragged through the streets of Mogadishu. Americans have no desire for such a debacle to be repeated.
Neither should the United States turn a cold shoulder to Liberia, a faithful ally during the Cold War and major recipient of U.S. aid. American troops should share in any international force sent to enforce the cease-fire and in the United Nations peacekeeping force that should follow.
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Trans fat unsafe
in any daily amount
THE growing number of overweight children in Hawaii in recent years indicates that too few parents examine nutrition labels before making their supermarket purchases. Most people don't understand the difference between good fats and bad ones, but the distinction is important. The Food and Drug Administration has decided to make food manufacturers include the amount of artery-clogging fats -- called trans fatty acids -- on labels beginning in 2006. Food producers should avoid the requirement by eliminating trans fat from their products.
The FDA is requiring food producers to begin in three years to include the amount of trans fatty acids on nutrition labels.
Consumers don't have to wait for three years to know whether some of their foods contain trans fat. If the nutrition label includes "shortening," "partially hydrogenated vegetable oil" or "hydrogenated vegetable oil," the food contains trans fat. Hawaii potato chip manufacturers using what they call hydrogenated oil should find a safer alternative.
The government has been considering the labeling requirement for four years but has been fought by food manufacturers that use trans fat, which they adopted in the 1980s to avoid unhealthy saturated fat and to increase shelf life. Saturated fat is found mainly in milk products, meat and other products containing animal fat. Trans fat can be found in numerous items, including vegetable shortening, margarine, crackers, candies, french fries, puddings and imitation cheese.
The FDA advises people to eat no more than 20 grams of saturated fat a day. It is advising no upper limit of daily consumption for trans fat, following the conclusion by the National Academy of Sciences' Institute of Medicine that the only safe amount of trans fat in a person's diet is none whatsoever.
Scientists determined that as little as two or three grams of trans fat a day can increase health risk. A direct relationship has been proved between diets high in trans fat content and bad LDL cholesterol, and thus coronary heart disease, one of the nation's leading causes of death.
Some food companies already have begun to wean from trans fat. Frito Lay is eliminating trans fat from its Doritos, Tostitos and Cheetos and earlier this year voluntarily began to include trans fat content on the labels of its other products. Unilever Bestfoods has announced its "I Can't Believe It's Not Butter" margarine will be free of trans fats by next year. Other food producers should take the hint.