You can now buy chewing gum in Singapore.

This may not seem particularly newsworthy, but, see, you haven't always been able to. Singapore has a veritable horde of oft-quoted, eyebrow-raising statutes: drug trafficking, for example, famously warrants the death penalty. You're also liable to be slapped with a hefty fine for not flushing a public toilet, and don't even think about importing "gun-shaped cigarette lighters" (drat!).

And then there was Michael Fay...but he might very well have deserved it.Given this cultural milieu, the chewing gum thing isn't all that surprising. Gum was banned in this country a decade and a half ago, reportedly in response to miscreants sticking their masticated mementos on the sensors of the nascent Mass Rapid Transit system's train doors, causing crippling, nation-wide delays. As with all things Singaporean, though, the ban had been bandied about in discussions for nine years prior. Let me tell you—those among us who lived in this country in those mastic-free days were forced to make do with Mentos, and massive amounts of hawker food.

Beginning in 1999, things began to change. That year, the US and Singapore entered into negotiations for a free-trade agreement (aptly named the "US-Singapore Free Trade Agreement"—or USSFTA—which doesn't roll off the tongue nearly as well as NAFTA once did). The negotiations, however, ground to a halt in 2003 over two very weighty, globally important issues.

1. The War in Iraq, and

2. Chewing gum.

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