Upfront Home
In This Issue
News and Trends
 • 
 • 
Features
Times Past
The Ethicist
Debate
Teen Voices
Upfront Topics
Contact
Magazine Info
News and Trends
November 14, 2005


Beware of French Fries?
Electing a 'Super Girl'
Chasing a Good Deal
Animals Endangered Online
When You've Got Company in Your Car
Notes for Peace in the Mideast

Beware of French Fries?
If California Attorney General Bill Lockyer has his way, all french fries and potato chips sold in his state will soon carry a warning label. These foods are loaded with fat, salt, simple carbs, and acrylamide—a chemical that forms when starchy foods are heated at high temperatures. Acrylamide is known to cause cancer in laboratory rats and mice. This has prompted Lockyer to file suit against McDonald's, Burger King, Frito-Lay, and six other food companies, saying that they should be forced to label all french fries and potato chips sold in California with a label stating: "This product contains a chemical known to the state of California to cause cancer." However, food companies argue that scientists do not know for certain that acrylamide will cause cancer in humans at the levels present in food.

Back to Top


Electing a 'Super Girl'
China's runaway summer hit—The Mongolian Cow Yogurt Super Girl Contest—ended in August with a television viewership that eclipsed the population of North America. More than 400 million people watched the finale of the show, which resembled American Idol, and saw a music student from Sichuan Province selected as the winner. But it was how that winner, Li Yuchun, was chosen that transformed Super Girl from just another Chinese pop-culture craze into a potential political milestone. Unlike China's leader, Hu Jintao, Li was popularly elected. Fans voted by text message, and the three finalists drew more than 8 million votes. In a country where it is illegal to organize many types of public meetings, fans formed booster clubs and "campaigned" for their favorite contestants. There were even accusations of voter fraud. Government propaganda officialswere unsettled by the frenzy surrounding Super Girl, and there is speculation that the show will be canceled. Zhu Dake, a Chinese commentator, says Super Girl is "like a gigantic game that has swept so many people into a euphoria of voting, which is a testament to a society opening up."

Back to Top


Chasing a Good Deal
Gaby Yosca, 15, a sophomore at the Dalton School in New York, knows how to stretch a dollar. One hour spent in a Salvation Army store netted her several outfits and a book—all for $62.50. Tom Bettridge, Yosca's classmate, takes pride in vinyl records bought at a yard sale and a pair of thrift-shop trousers. And when Samantha and Ashlee Nola of Montgomery, Ala., shop for makeup, they head to the discount chains, where $20 buys far more than it does at a department store. Escalating prices and shifting personal values have prompted many young people to curb their spending and look for bargains. According to Teenage Research Unlimited, spending by teenagers has dropped 4 percent in the last year, to $158 billion. For some, pinching pennies becomes a competitive sport. "It's kind of a skill to find cool clothes for cheap money," says Bettridge. "The real bonus is that you know—and that other people know—when you've scored a find."

Back to Top


Animals Endangered Online
Is the Internet endangering the African elephant? According to one advocacy group for endangered species, it is. A three-month investigation by the International Fund for Animal Welfare in Yarmouth Port, Mass., uncovered more than 6,000 illegal or potentially illegal wildlife items for sale online, including a hawksbill turtle shell for $102 and an elephant-bone sculpture for $18,000. Animal-welfare advocates say their best hope for slowing the spread of the online market for endangered species rests with reputable sellers like Overstock.com and eBay. Chris Donlay, an eBay spokesman, says that in addition to screening for illegal wildlife items (and barring the sale of live animals altogether), eBay posts a lengthy explanation of regulations about the sale of animal parts in its Help section. Scott Blevins, a spokesman for Overstock.com, says, "We've got a bunch of people who try to track this stuff. We don't catch it all, and we ask that if anyone sees it, they report it and we'll take it down."

Back to Top


When You've Got Company in Your Car
The roadways might be a lot safer if there were fewer teenage boys in the passenger seat. A recent study suggests that when a teenage boy is the front-seat passenger, a teenage driver—whether boy or girl—becomes more careless. The study, by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, also found that when a boy drove with a girl in the passenger seat, he drove more safely. If a girl drove with another girl, she tended to be a bit less careful than a girl driving alone. Data was obtained by observing the driving of students as they left 10 high schools in the Washington, D.C., area.

Back to Top


Notes for Peace in the Mideast
Troops armed with automatic weapons have stood guard over their rehearsals. And, for security reasons, their names cannot be listed in concert programs. But the 80 Arab and Jewish musicians, ages 13 to 26, who play in the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra do not allow these details to derail their passion for music. The orchestra was founded in 1999 by Daniel Barenboim, an Israeli conductor, and the late Edward Said, a Palestinian writer. Its purpose is to promote peace in the Middle East by bringing Arab and Israeli musicians together. Orchestra members come from Israel, Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, and Spain. When they play, says Barenboim, "They are all equal; there is not the 'oppressor' and the 'oppressed,' the 'militant' and the 'military.' " The West-Eastern Divan, which meets for a workshop in Seville, Spain, every summer, has toured Europe, the U.S., and the Middle East.

Back to Top