High-Impact Writing for Mobile • Video • Interactive
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The giant panda is probably the most high-profile endangered species on earth. Less than 1,600 remain in the wild, in a few mountain forests in central China. Because the female produces young every other year, she can successfully raise only five to eight cubs in her lifetime. This hinders the giant panda population from recovering quickly from illegal hunting, habitat loss, and other human-related causes of mortality.
This more-popular-than-the-average bear is also one of the most highly studied of endangered species. The National Zoo’s two giant pandas, female Mei Xiang and male Tian Tian, are international celebrities whose every sexual interaction is minutely observed and recorded as the focus of an ambitious American-Chinese research, conservation, and breeding program designed to preserve the species. In late April 2012, the National Zoo collaborated with the China Conservation and Research Center for the Giant Panda to perform two artificial inseminations of Mei Xiang. It was the culmination of years of intense research on the female giant panda’s reproductive system. Yet, amazingly, little had been studied of the male giant panda’s reproductive life.
That changed in April 2012 with the publication of two studies of eight male giant pandas by the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, which found that, like female pandas, male pandas experience reproductive seasonality—but very differently. While females ovulate only once a year and have a window of only two to three days during which they can conceive, male sperm production begins three to five months before the female even enters estrus—likely ensuring there’s enough material for the brief and unpredictable magic moment.
Other recent studies have shown there’s still much to learn about the giant panda. Every new discovery helps scientists in their battle to save this species.
* Winner of the 2011 Bronze MUSE Award for Audio Tours and Podcasts, as part of Cortina Productions’ GuideCam™
WAR AND PEACE
VO: Finally, Ronald Reagan met a Soviet leader who held out the promise of reducing the
nuclear arsenal: Mikhail Gorbachev. At their first summit in Geneva, Switzerland, President
Reagan arranged an extraordinary meeting with his Russian counterpart. What began as a
formal discussion between two world leaders became a momentous and genuine exchange of
RR: Gorbachev and I sat opposite one another. I had told my team what I was going to do. As
our technical experts began to speak, I said to him, “While our people here are discussing the
need for arms control, why don’t you and I step outside and get some fresh air?” Well,
Gorbachev was out of his chair before I could finish the sentence. We walked together about
100 yards down a hill to a boathouse along the lakeshore I had arranged for in advance.
[SE: crackling fire] We sat down beside the blazing hearth, just the two of us and our
interpreters. And I told Gorbachev that I thought he and I were in a unique situation, at a
unique time. “Here you and I are, two men in a room, probably the only two men in the world
who could bring about World War III. But by the same token, we may be the only two men in
the world who could perhaps bring about peace in the world.”
Belladonna is an herbaceous perennial native to Western Asia, North Africa, and Europe.
The name Belladonna, or “beautiful woman,” is said to come from the cosmetic practice of Mediterranean women during the Middle Ages, who dropped the sap of this plant into their eyes to enlarge their pupils, and give them a dreamy, beautiful effect. The genus name, atropa, is derived from Atropos, one of the three fates in Greek mythology, who cut the thread of human life. This was an early and very clear recognition that this could be a very toxic plant.
Despite Belladonna’s many medicinal applications—such as dilating pupils for eye examinations and surgery, increasing heart rate, relieving asthma, and numbing nerve endings to ease pain—its alkaloid Atropine poses a hazard common among natural medicines.
The therapeutic dose of this plant is very close to the toxic dose. At therapeutic dose, atropine increases the heart rate and relaxes muscles. High doses can lead to hallucinations, confusion, and even death.
Also known as “Deadly Nightshade,” Belladonna has been the stuff of intrigue, seduction, and danger through the ages. The wives of two ancient Roman emperors, Augustus and Claudius, were rumored to have used it for murder, and early humans put the poison on the tips of arrows.
When she was 18 years old, Isabelle de Borchgrave had a once-in-a-lifetime experience: she
stayed overnight at a palace in Venice that was normally closed to the public.
Isabelle de Borchgrave:
It was the House of Fortuny, and I was so inspired by that place.
The early 20th Century designer Mario Fortuny created gowns unmatched in their classic
beauty. The artist could hardly have imagined that in 2008, in that very palace, she would
exhibit a collection of paper dresses based on his work.
Here are three of them, all related to what is arguably Fortuny’s masterpiece: the Delphos
Gown. Styled after the type of pleated garment worn in ancient Greece, the silk satin Delphos
Gown featured undulating accordion pleats that naturally followed the shape of a woman’s
body. Fortuny introduced the gown intending that it be worn without a corset or, indeed,
anything at all underneath—a revolutionary idea for 1907.
* Winner of a 2010 Telly Award and 13 other industry honors.
On my first admission when they put me in the bath, and they poured shampoo and some other
ingredient over me, I thought they were dying my skin white.
You know we were tough guys, and we got so much going on, you know.
The patients are so often in suspended isolation in a maximum-security setting, and there are all kinds
of opinions about people who are mentally ill and particularly about people who have been found ‘not
guilty by reason of insanity.’ Very much like the movie Silence of the Lambs: this wild person whose
only value in life is to wreak havoc in the community. The best way to change that perception is to find
some way where people are really going to interact, and to find a way where they're interacting not as
individuals who are giving something to the poor and misbegotten, but sharing something—sharing a
common interest. What I want from the program is to have people accept our population as individuals
with various interests that anybody in the community might have. In other words, they would be seen
as people. The Lens & Pens program is a program about communication. The use of art is their
vehicle for allowing people to express and share their expressions. It's a vehicle that allows people to
* Winner of a 2011 Gold MarCom Award (Video), 2011 Gold MarCom Award (Pro Bono),
2011 Bronze DC Peer Award (Script Writing), and 2011 Bronze DC Peer Award (Pro Bono)
• WWII Footage
• Gas Graphic
• Coke Graphic
• VOA Animation
• War Bonds Graphic
• Archival DC Footage
from the ‘40s
• Early DC Production
In the early 1940s, the US was entrenched in World War II, gas
was 15 cents a gallon if you could get it, and a bottle of Coke was
a nickel. The Voice of America began broadcasting its message of
freedom, and US War Bonds were introduced to help fund the
In Washington, the government drafted filmmakers to help craft
a war message via short movies and newsreels. Soon, the
nation’s capital had grown into a burgeoning production center
churning out propaganda films, documentaries, and industrials
by the dozens. It is out of this hotbed of production that the
Washington Film & Video Council was born.
The animation dissolves as lightening tears a darkened sky. Terrifying thunderclaps resound
across the upper gallery. A satellite’s view provides footage of black storm clouds. As the
clouds burst, the camera’s view descends through them, emerging below and continuing its
descent as a torrent of blue-gray rain batters the leaves capping the rainforest canopy below.
A close-up of the canopy leaves’ surfaces reveals their glossy skin and tiny spouts, allowing
them to dry quickly. The camera tilts down to capture the rain filtering in weakened droplets
through the lower leaves of trees now densely blanketing the gallery walls.
Then, just as suddenly, the storm ends. Still hanging above the canopy, the camera eye takes
in the rays of morning sunlight gilding the wet treetops below. The eye descends into the dark
green canopy as its teeming life pops. A parrot hangs by one foot as it gnaws a piece of fruit.
Against the muffled sounds of life in the canopy, the loud calls of Howler Monkey troops
assault the ear as their sounds dart across the upper reaches of the gallery. A Three-Toed
Sloth awakens. Highlighting the interdependence of living creatures explored in Gallery 7:
The Living Web, an extreme close-up descending the length of a single tree tracks hundreds
of species of beetles camouflaged to match the flora they inhabit. Lower down, a Pygmy
Anteater’s long, sticky tongue sucks up termites from the trunk. At the tree base, a
Panamanian Golden Frog croaks. A jaguar passes silently, searching for prey. A Broad-Billed
Sapayoa flutters away. The mosaic now reveals new tiles depicting rainforest wildlife.
Micro Air Vehicles Emulate the Genius of Bats
The Air Force is going a little batty to advance the current state of unmanned
micro air vehicles, or MAVs. While MAVs are being used successfully in
Afghanistan and Iraq for combat, logistics operations, target acquisition,
decoy, and reconnaissance, their fixed or rotor-based wings make it difficult
to maneuver in tight spaces and harsh weather conditions. Far more
sophisticated are the bat’s flapping wings, which not only move up and down
while traveling forward but actually change shape during flight, enabling
them to remain airborne and flexible in rough weather. Modeling those skills
as well as this mammal’s uncanny ability to navigate by the echoes of its
cries (echolocation), researchers are developing small, unmanned
“ornithopters” (wing-flapping aircraft) able to hover, perch, advance, and
pivot in turbulent weather and complex environments like forests, buildings,
caves, and tunnels.
1.15 Create a Local Meal
Here, a large map of North America is projected onto a virtual table around which visitors sit. The task at hand: to compose a meal from as many locally grown foods as possible while discovering the health, economic, aesthetic, and sustainable benefits of doing so. While the experience provides nifty tips visitors can use every day in preparing meals, here they have the fun of imagining themselves to be apprentice cooks in an exacting chef’s kitchen. As they compete for the grand prize of being dubbed “Sous-Chef,” by the great chef, his torso and head, crowned with the traditional large white toque, loom forebodingly above. In his hands, a blackboard reveals three chalked-in criteria: Location; Season; and Main Ingredient. On their own computers, visitors type in the following search terms:
Location – The visitor selects among several preselected, major U.S. and Canadian locations (results are given within a 100-mile radius);
Season – The visitor may choose the current season or the season in which his or her birthday occurs;
Main ingredient – The visitor chooses one or more types of food from among vegetable, meat, fruit, grain, poultry, dairy, or grain; and presses "Enter."
Should the ingredients be in season and locally available, a list of “dishes” using the ingredients are suggested, along with nearby locations from which to obtain them. Should the ingredients be unavailable locally, apprentices may consult with a “lifeline” and query farmers, food artisans, and more experienced chefs for advice on creative substitutions, such as honey for sugar, and the most reasonable or fresh imports for the location. Once apprentices have selected a dish based on the available, substituted, or imported ingredients, they press “Enter.” The contestant with the highest score wins the prize and is named “Sous-Chef for a Day.”
A young woman sits at a sewing machine, making a dress based on patterns she cut herself. Liberated months earlier from a death march headed to Nazi Germany, she had arrived at ORT’s Amsterdam School with only the clothes on her back.
An eight-year-old boy wearing cardboard shoes is visited year after year by a nurse at the ORT School in 1950s Casablanca. She gently drops medicine into his trusting eyes to stave off a blinding disease.
A ferry load of 106 students and teachers from ORT’s Berlin School are given safe passage to London under cover of night—a hair’s breadth before German troops march into Poland. Within three months, ORT replicates the Berlin school in the English factory town of Leeds.
AGAINST ALL ODDS, ORT—THE ORGANIZATION FOR REHABILITATION THROUGH TRAINING—GAVE THEM THE WILL TO SURVIVE . . . AND THE TOOLS TO LIVE.
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