SCIENCE IN THE NEWS #2102 - Digest

By StaffThis is Bob Doughty.And this is Sarah Long with SCIENCE IN THE NEWS, a VOA Special English program about recent developments in science. Today, we tell about two new animals at the National Zoo in Washington. We tell why soy protein is good for you. And we tell about efforts to help more people use the Internet computer system.

Two young giant pandas have arrived at the National Zoo in Washington, D-C. Mei Xiang ((May-shee-ONG)) and Tian Tian ((t- YEN t-YEN)) traveled from their birthplace in China. They are being kept away from the public for about a month to make sure they are healthy. Zoo officials say this time also should give the furry black and white animals a chance to feel at home in their new surroundings.

The two pandas are living in a redesigned area that cost almost two-million dollars. The area contains a house, water and trees to climb. The zoo hopes to show the giant pandas to visitors early next year. The two new pandas look like big stuffed toys for children. Mei Xiang is a two-and-one-half-year-old female. Her name means "beautiful smell." Tian Tian is male. He is three-and-one-half years old. His name means "more and more." They were born in the Wolong Reserve, a protected area in Sichuan Province.National Zoo officials began negotiating with China in Nineteen-Ninety-Eight to borrow two giant pandas. The zoo officials chose the animals during a recent trip to the Wolong Reserve. Last month, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service gave the zoo permission to bring the pandas here.

China is lending the animals to the National Zoo for ten years. The zoo will pay China one-million dollars for each of those years. China will use the money to study and protect giant pandas. The money also will help train panda experts. Only about one-thousand of the animals still exist in China. The giant panda is threatened with disappearing from Earth. Any babies born to Mei Xiang and Tian Tian will belong to China.National Zoo officials are studying panda reproduction. Cameras at the zoo will follow the animals' actions. Pandas usually reproduce when they are between four and six years old. However, female pandas do not reproduce easily by natural methods. Scientists often intervene to help the animals breed.

National Zoo officials say they believe the pandas will increase visitors to the zoo by twenty percent. They also believe visitors will provide more than one-million dollars more each year. The money is expected to come from sales of drinks, food and panda toys.The new giant pandas are not the first to live at the National Zoo. Chinese leader Mao Zedong gave two pandas to the zoo in Nineteen-Seventy-Two. That happened after President Richard Nixon visited China.

Hsing Hsing ((Shing-Shing)) and Ling Ling were the most famous and popular animals at the zoo. But Hsing Hsing died in November of last year. Doctors at the zoo ended Hsing Hsing's life after his health had failed. He had kidney disease that could not be cured. Hsing Hsing was twenty-eight years old when he died. That is very old for a giant panda.

The other panda, Ling Ling, died in Nineteen-Ninety-Two. The National Zoo tried for years to help Ling Ling and Hsing Hsing produce a baby panda. At first, the two pandas did not seem to know how to reproduce. Later, Ling Ling gave birth to five cubs between Nineteen-Eighty-Three and Nineteen-Eighty-Nine.

Her pregnancies were started by both scientific and natural methods. But none of the babies lived for more than five days.America's first healthy giant panda baby was born last year. Hua Mei (Wah-May) was born at the San Diego Zoo in California. She lives there with her mother, Bai Yun (Buy-YUNE) and father, Shi Shi (Shih-Shih). Hua Mei was the first giant panda born in the Western Hemisphere in about ten years. China lent her parents to the San Diego Zoo for twelve years.

A total of seven giant pandas live in zoos in the United States. They are among more than one-hundred twenty giant pandas in zoos throughout the world.

((MUSIC BRIDGE))You are listening to the Special English program SCIENCE IN THE NEWS on VOA. This is Sarah Long with Bob Doughty in Washington.


The American Heart Association says that eating soy protein can improve the health of people with high levels of cholesterol in their blood. Its new statement follows studies showing that soy protein can help reduce the chance of developing heart disease.

The Heart Association says studies have shown that eating twenty-five to fifty grams of soy protein every day is an effective way to reduce harmful cholesterol. The greatest effects were seen in people with very high cholesterol levels. Heart disease is a major public health concern in many industrial countries. It causes more deaths in the United States than any other disease. Studies show an increased risk for heart disease in people with high total cholesterol levels.Soybeans and soybean products are the main source of protein for millions of people in Asia. People in that part of the world have been eating soy products since ancient times. Studies show that Asians have much lower rates of heart disease than Americans or Europeans.

Medical researchers say one reason soy protein reduces cholesterol is because it contains substances called isoflavones. Isoflavones are produced by plants. They are called phytoestrogens because they are like the hormone estrogen. Estrogen improves cholesterol levels. Phytoestrogens are thought to have a similar, but weaker, effect. Studies in humans have shown that soy protein with isoflavones lowered cholesterol more than soy protein without isoflavones. Researchers say both soy protein and isoflavones may be needed to produce the cholesterol-lowering effect.

Soy milk, tofu, and products made with soy flour are among the foods that are high in these substances.

((MUSIC BRIDGE))One problem today is how to help more people in developing countries use electronic information over the Internet computer system. Many organizations working in development far from cities have computers. But it is very hard to send and receive information if they cannot connect to the Internet. As a result, people who cannot connect to the Internet become poorer. And those who can, become richer. This is called the "digital divide."

In many areas, there is no way to connect to the Internet because there are no telephone lines. Or the telephone service is not good enough for computers to send and receive information. Or the service costs too much.Now the American development organization called Volunteers in Technical Assistance, or VITA, has found a way to solve the problem. Instead of using telephone lines, VITA uses satellites orbiting the earth to pick up messages from small radio stations on the ground.

The satellites also send messages to the stations that come through the Internet. The satellites are about eight-hundred kilometers up in space. They travel over every point on the earth at least four times every day. These passes over the earth can last from five to fifteen minutes. During this time, up to fifty pages of text or messages can be sent or received.VITA and other organizations have developed new technology that makes it easier for people to contact the satellites by using computers. Next year, VITA hopes that thousands of new satellite radio stations will be built. These stations will be connected to computers and placed in hard-to-reach communities all over the world.

Then the people operating the stations will be able to send and receive electronic mail and use other information services on the Internet. VITA hopes that areas of the world forgotten by the information revolution will be able to send and receive electronic mail at very low cost.

This SCIENCE IN THE NEWS program was written by Jerilyn Watson, Nancy Steinbach and Gary Garriott. It was produced by George Grow. This is Bob Doughty.And this is Sarah Long. Join us again next week for more news about science in Special English on the Voice of America.

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