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The winners and the losers

*Winner: Brigham Young University did far more than win an electric car race last week. It won the admiration of fellow competitors. When members of BYU's electric car racing team left for California last weekend, they knew they couldn't win because the championship race was to be held on Sunday. BYU, which is sponsored by the LDS Church, does not participate in Sunday competitions.

But after the team arrived in California, the sponsors and other schools decided to accommodate BYU by changing the time of the final race from Sunday to Saturday night. An elated BYU team then guided its car, named "Electric Blue" and powered by 28 lead-acid batteries, to victory. The car can reach 120 mph, and throughout the competition averaged 76 mph. "Everything worked out great for us," said Tom Erekson, director of the BYU School of Technology. Indeed it did.

*Winner: Though some may not consider it positive when they come across them on the golf course, the endangered American crocodile is making a strong comeback. Crocodiles are now nesting in parts of Florida's Biscayne Bay for the first time this century, researchers say.

The crocodile was declared an endangered species in 1975 when its population dwindled to 20 nesting females, all of them in a 20-square-mile-area in Miami-Dade County and the Florida Keys. Efforts by scientists and conservationists are paying off with young crocodiles appearing at parks and golf courses. As to who has the right of way on the golf course, that would probably be anything with large teeth and jaws powerful enough to crush you.

Loser: Though it's an architectural marvel, its acoustics are apparently abominable. And that's bad if the building is an opera house. The Sydney Symphony Orchestra is threatening to boycott the world famous Sydney Opera House unless the interior is redesigned to improve the acoustics that Edo de Waart, chief conductor, says are astonishingly bad.

The 26-year-old Opera House has long been criticized for poor acoustics and lack of performance space. The Sydney Opera House Trust wants to refurbish the building. If it doesn't properly address the acoustics and performing area, the sound of music may be replaced by the sounds of silence.

*Winner: Despite a number of political scandals, the nation's civic health is on the mend. At least that's the conclusion of a report issued this week by the National Commission on Civic Renewal. "We can now say with confidence that the decade-long decline in our civic condition has not only halted but has significantly improved, said William Galston, executive director of the commision, which spent 18 months studying the state of citizenship in America. We hope Galston is right.