Upfront Home
In This Issue
News and Trends
 • 
 • 
Features
Times Past
The Ethicist
Debate
Teen Voices
Upfront Topics
Contact
Magazine Info
News and Trends
September 4, 2006


Attached to Their Patients
Banned From the Stands
Cyber-Snitching
Sugary Drinks Flunk Out
Fast-Food Orders Go Long Distance
Coach Pitches Physics

Attached to Their Patients
Leeches—small, bloodsucking animals related to earthworms—are making a comeback in the medical world. Surgeons have found that the medicinal leech, or Hirudo medicinalis, helps heal skin grafts and reattached fingers and ears. When a leech attaches to a patient, it secretes chemicals that keep blood from clotting and increase the flow through reattached blood vessels. These squirmy creatures have a long history in the world of medicine. In ancient Rome, they were used to "bleed" patients as a treatment for headaches and other maladies. By the 1800s, leeches were considered a virtual cure-all, and millions were used in Europe and the United States. As medical knowledge advanced, the practice of leeching died out. Now, the F.D.A. has reinstated the medicinal leech by clearing its use as a "medical device."

Back to Top


Banned From the Stands
This spring, for the first time since the Islamic revolution in 1979, Iranian women were allowed to enter a stadium and root for their country's national soccer team—although the women sat in a section apart from the men. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had unexpectedly lifted a ban that barred women from attending major sporting events. "Certain prejudices against women have nothing to do with Islam," he said. But on May 8, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei—the Muslim cleric who is Iran's supreme leader—rescinded the president's decision. Under Iran's system of clerical rule, Khamenei has final say on all government policy. Senior clerics determined that rowdy behavior at sporting events made them inappropriate for women, and that it violated Islamic law for women to look at male strangers. Since the revolution, the Iranian government has enforced a strict Islamic dress code for women and segregation of the sexes in public. But soccer is the most popular sport in Iran, and women had been demanding the right to attend games for more than a decade. Ahmadinejad had contended that the presence of women at games would promote better behavior.

Back to Top


Cyber-Snitching
To her fellow students at Shanghai Normal University, Hu Yingying appears to be just another typical undergraduate. And given the double life that she leads, coming across as ordinary is just fine. When she's not in class or studying, Hu spends several hours a week helping to police her school's Internet forums. Guided by professors or older students, she introduces politically correct subjects for online discussion. Hu also reports anything she finds offensive to the Webmaster. China has long had Internet police—up to 50,000 agents who troll the Web, block access to offending sites, and arrest people for what they consider anti-Communist views. But Hu, one of 500 students in the university's Internet-monitoring group, is part of a new, supposedly volunteer force that the government has mobilized to help censor the Web. "We don't control things," Hu says, "but we really don't want bad or wrong things to appear on the Web sites."

Back to Top


Sugary Drinks Flunk Out
Don't be surprised if cola, grape soda, and sweetened iced tea don't show up for school this fall. Under an agreement with health advocates, the top three soft-drink makers in the U.S. (Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, and Cadbury Schweppes) will remove these and other sugary beverages from vending machines and school cafeterias. The agreement, which covers public, private, and parochial schools, was prompted by the growing threat of lawsuits and state legislation against soft-drink makers. The plan calls for elementary school students to be served only bottled water, low-fat and nonfat milk, and 100 percent fruit juices, in 8-ounce servings, increasing to 10 ounces in middle school. In high school, low-calorie sports drinks, juice drinks, and diet soda would be permitted, in servings up to 12 ounces. Nutritionists and parent groups have pressured schools and the beverage industry for some time to restrict soft-drink sales. Critics of the agreement say that it will be hard to enforce and that it does not address the issue of beverage company advertising in schools. Some states, including California and Connecticut, had already banned soft-drink sales in schools.

Back to Top


Fast-Food Orders Go Long Distance
Like many American teenagers, Julissa Vargas, 17, works in the fast-food industry. But she's probably never been inside any of the McDonald's where her customers are ordering their burgers and fries. Instead, she's at a bustling call center in Santa Maria, Calif., where she fields drive-through orders from McDonald's all over the U.S. Vargas and her co-workers use the Internet to relay each order back to the McDonald's where it was placed, and the order is then filled. With this still-experimental system, McDonald's hopes to improve service and sales by shaving a few seconds off each order. About 40 McDonald's around the U.S. are participating.

Back to Top


Coach Pitches Physics
Like every varsity baseball player at his high school in Mattituck, N.Y., Joe Finora was required to take a class in physics. And he did learn a thing or two that helped him on the ball field. For example, air resistance coupled with gravity makes a downward pitch break more sharply than a sideways one. In non-geek speak: It will be harder to hit. Choosing his pitches with that in mind has helped make Finora a star pitcher with an earned run average of 1.60. His physics teacher, Steve DeCaro, must have been pleased with Finora's performance, since DeCaro also happens to be the baseball coach. Until DeCaro arrived at Mattituck High School four years ago, he had long dreamed of bringing his dual passion for physics and baseball to the same group of students. "Realistically, I think everybody should take physics," says DeCaro. "But if I'm the baseball coach and you're on my team, I can make you take it." DeCaro has raised physics enrollment at Mattituck High from 17 to 70—in a school with just 150 seniors. His teams have gone 43-16 in the last three seasons. One player, Keith Connell, rode the bench until AP physics taught him that his hitting problems had to do with transfer of momentum. Now, having adjusted his stance and swing, Connell is a starter— and he's hitting .337.

Back to Top