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prospector has a midas touch

LOS ANGELES - Scientists at the University of Southern California confirmed that a 56-pound nugget found by an Australian prospector is 80 to 90 percent high-purity gold, the largest natural occurrence ever found. Sotheby's will auction the nugget, which the Aussie named the "King of the West," in New York this June. The nugget would be worth $250,000 to $300,000, if it were melted down, estimates a Sotheby's spokesperson. But it is expected to fetch several times that amount.


Rain forests may be worse off

LONDON - More than twice as much land in Brazil's Amazon forests is being destroyed each year than current estimates suggest, say researchers at the Woods Hole Research Center in Massachusetts. Up to 5,800 square miles of the world's largest tropical forests are damaged through logging each year, they say. Surface fires, which presage increased deforestation, also destroy more forest, but neither are included entirely in satellite estimates.

Plant a tree for free

Arbor Day 2000, an environmental group, is giving away millions of trees to anyone who wants to honor National Arbor Day on April 30. The group is taking phone orders (you pay shipping) and will tour 10 cities this spring to distribute spruce, birch, maple, and tulip trees. Call 877-ARBORDAY or try www.freetrees.org to get as many as five free seedlings.


A biblical undertaking

COLLEGEVILLE, MINN. - St. John's Abbey and St. John's University here, have commissioned a royal calligrapher to craft the first handwritten, illuminated Bible since the advent of the printing press 500 years ago. Donald Jackson, scribe to Queen Elizabeth's Crown Office, and a team of artists and theologians will pen the Saint John's Bible by 2004. Mr. Jackson will write with goose quills on vellum and use unique lettering and gold-leaf illuminations.

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