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River's Mercury Pollution Is Worst Ever Reported

A 60-MILE stretch of the Carson River in Nevada contains the highest level of mercury pollution in water ever reported, the remnant of 19th-century mining, according to a team of scientists.

The mercury levels found in the river east of Carson City and in the Lahonton Reservoir are up to three times higher than in any other known polluted water, said John Warwick, director of the hydrology-hydrogeology program at the University of Nevada, Reno. On Saturday, Mr. Warwick disclosed findings of the first two years of a three-year study conducted by scientists from the university, the Desert Research Institute, Nevada Bureau of Mines, and the University of Nevada Medical School.

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Between 1860 and 1890 an estimated 7,000 pounds of mercury was spilled into the watershed in the Virginia City area in the northwestern corner of the state. The mercury, a toxic chemical, was used to separate silver and gold from ore. The paperless classroom

UNIVERSITY of the South professor Gerald Smith has not given one piece of paper to his students this semester, and they have not given one to him. No term papers, no test papers, no textbooks, no handouts. Everything - even class discussions - is conducted via computer.

Dr. Smith decided that any new courses he introduced would be paper free. He planted the seed this spring with his religion and ecology class, which examines how different religions approach environmental issues. Lecture outlines, class notes, and reading material are available through a computer file. Writing assignments are done on computer and turned in by electronic mail. Smith returns graded assignments through the same system. Austin repeals partner benefits

VOTERS in Austin, Texas, repealed the city's program to provide health benefits to partners of homosexual and unmarried city employees by nearly a 2-to-1 margin.

Proposition 22 amends the city charter to limit benefits to immediate families and husbands or wives. Final returns from Saturday's election showed 62 percent favoring the proposal and 38 percent against it. Tim Weltin, a member of the anti-repeal Mainstream Austin Coalition, said polls showed that most people who voted for Proposition 22 opposed unmarried couples living together, not homosexuals. After the City Council approved the benefits program in September, 69 employees registered a partner of the opposite sex and 29 registered one of the same sex. The program would have cost Austin about $130,000 this year.

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