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Winemakers consult the stars to improve quality


An increasing number of winemakers are consulting astrology charts and burying manure-filled cow horns to improve the quality of their wine. They say these arcane practices revive the soil to produce a better drink.

Mending fractured saints requires care and a touch of sensitivity

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A scattering of artists around the country specialize in repairing religious statues. More than just the ability to mend the fingers, hands and feet of aging statues, their work demands sensitivity to congregations that have strong attachments to their icons.

Rifle teams are coming back--and some anti-gunners are applauding


An aggressive push by the National Rifle Association is encouraging a new wave of youth marksmanship teams. Adherents say supervised rifling encourages safety. And even some gun control advocates agree.

Accidental killers: overlooked victims on America's roads

It's a driver's worst nightmare. But what happens to people who accidentally--not drunk and through no fault of their own--kill another person with a car?

New rule may help Native American tribes reclaim artifacts


It's been nearly a dozen years since museums and federal agencies had to notify American Indian tribes about artifacts in their collections that might have been stolen from or lost by the tribes. But a new federal regulation may make it easier for the tribes to identify such objects.

'The Baby-sitter's Club' book club


Not yet ready to abandon their childhoods, adults are re-reading the cult kid series "The Baby-sitter's Club." The 20-something fans find kindred spirits on blogs and even engage in role-playing games, adopting the teenage characters' identities.

Bringing in the bidets


Bidets are making a splash in the American market as the toilet industry takes note of a habit long popular elsewhere in the world.

Jewish dating Web sites attract people of all faiths


An increasing number of non-Jews are joining Jewish online dating sites. Some are looking for someone with a Jewish background; others are just attracted by the high success rate of the sites.

In-between enclaves: not Canada, but not the U.S. either


It's not Canada, but it's not quite America either. Life in Point Roberts, Wash., Canada's American enclave, combines the inconvenience of border regulations with the benefits of natural beauty and a safe environment that mixes small town American life with the flavor of a big Canadian city.

Eye candy: Artists discover novel uses for gummy bears


Twenty years after gummy bears first conquered America with their fruity deliciousness and popular television show, they’re making their way into avant-garde art.

Race to record memories of World War II veterans gains momentum


World War II veterans are dying at a rate of more than 1,000 a day, and the race is on to document their war stories before they go. Many are participating in the largest-ever oral history project in U.S. history to ensure that their experiences are not forgotten.

Aid centers, overwhelmed by refugees who have been tortured, seek more funding


Faced with increasing need for their services, centers that aid refugees who have been tortured say they need more federal financing.

Helping people with mental illness meet like-minded partners

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Forging relationships can be extremely difficult for people suffering from delusions and paranoia. Social clubs and Web sites help the mentally ill develop friendships and romantic relationships.

Fries, cheese curds and brown gravy? A French-Canadian fave is U.S.-bound


Poutine, a dish of French fries, cheese curds and brown gravy, is celebrating its 50th anniversary as a French-Canadian treat with a successful debut in the United States. As the comfort food raises both eyebrows and cholesterol levels, some predict it could become the snack of choice for future generations.

Customized sneakers are gaining traction

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Hand-painted and individually designed shoes are gaining traction as the trend moves from the cities to the suburbs.

Mothers selling breast milk . . . to men


“Young mother, healthy, nonsmoker, sells breast milk for $1.50 an ounce.” Although the practice is highly discouraged by health organizations, an online market has developed for breast milk--not for sale to mothers, but to adult men with a breast milk fetish.

New laws give parents a say in keeping twins together in school


As multiple births increase, so do the conflicts that parents face in trying to keep their twins and triplets in the same classroom.

The newest arena in the environmental battle: the bedroom


With Earth Day approaching, many in the adult toy industry are going green and making their products more environmentally friendly.

Collectors hot for last letters of rich and famous


People are writing fewer letters than ever, but they still love to peer through glass cases at weathered old letters, particularly at those written by famous people. NOTE TO EDITORS: SIDEBAR ATTACHED AT END OF STORY.

Gardens unlock clues about early American life


Archaeologists conducting research on the estates of well-known early Americans are unlocking clues about the past by reconstructing gardens and plantations.

Anchovy power! Those yucky little fish could save your life


Anchovies may be despised by the squeamish, but they're a chef's delight, good for your heart and even environmentally friendly.

Midwesterners reach new heights with silo ice climbing


Midwestern ice climbers seeking a new place to climb might try looking out the farmhouse window. A University of Northern Iowa instructor is pioneering silo ice climbing.

Sikh Web: A lifeline for the faith in a non-Indian world


Many of the 23 million Sikhs scattered around the globe use the Internet to communicate with one another. The Web has become a lifeline for the faith and its youth, helping Sikhs everywhere adapt their ancestors’ religion to new, non-Indian worlds.

Declining? Far from it. Cities are hotter than ever before


Despite their reputation for crime and poverty, cities are attracting more people than ever before, and a group of urban sociologists and psychologists sees cities as the ideal laboratory for studying human interaction.

Courts may just say no to drug tax


Nearly two dozen states have enacted laws requiring drug dealers and users to pay a tax on their illicit substances. But, slowly, the courts are finding these laws unconstitutional, and the latest case, in Tennessee, could spell the beginning of the end for the “crack tax.” ***PHOTO INTENDED FOR WEB USE DUE TO SMALL SIZE: 238 pixels x 218 pixels, NO HI-REZ AVAILABLE***

Hip-hop heads to the classroom

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Hip-hop is coming off the streets and emerging as a new field of academic study. But supporters think it may face opposition behind the ivied walls.

Women's hockey facing growing pains


Women's hockey is growing around the United States, but why are elite female players having such a difficult time playing the game they love?

NuvaRing gains ground in birth control market


The new ring that women are coveting is not worn on their fingers. NuvaRing is a vaginal contraceptive. Although the method is unorthodox compared with more traditional approaches like the birth control pill, many young women are choosing NuvaRing because of its convenience and effectiveness.

Bicycling far off the beaten track . . . really far off


Bicyclists fed up with the crowds in the U.S. are heading for the Third World to find the open road.

Breaking up with antidepressants may be hard to do

Antidepressants have made millions of people feel better, but many who try to get off the drugs fear they may be hooked for life.

Rite On!

Need a PowerPoint presentation for your wedding? A singing eulogy at your funeral? A ceremony to mark your divorce? Hire a celebrant.

Teenage Zoroastrian priests lead dwindling congregations


The millennia-old Zoroastrian faith, once the reigning religion of the Persian Empire, is increasingly threatened by interfaith marriages and erosion of its rituals . But a new generation of Zoroastrian priests is maintaining a link with the faith's ancient past.

The ancient Irish sport of hurling catches on in America


Americans are falling for hurling, a tough game from Ireland, a cross between field hockey and lacrosse that's considered the fastest field sport in the world.

Florida? Where's that?


Many parts of the world take geography education seriously. But in American schools the subject is often an afterthought. Teachers are concerned about this gap in this age of globalization.

Presidential candidates compete for friends online


Presidential candidates aren't just competing for campaign cash and poll numbers anymore. The latest political race is for friends on social-networking sites like MySpace and Facebook.

Pet owners dish out big dollars for funerals


Backyard burials for Sparky are a thing of the past. Today's pet owners are heading to the pet cemetery to memorialize their cherished hounds or felines.

Not a parent? Playdates and podcasts for childless couples


As friends disappear into diaperland, a growing number of childless couples find companionship in child-free social groups.

School’s in session--in former factories, grocery stores and malls


Putting schools in converted warehouses and shopping malls can save districts money and help them keep pace with growing enrollments.

Fighting dummies: the crusade against ultrathin body ideals


Window mannequins have long documented body image trends. With the recent deaths of anorexic models, some fashion industry officials are reevaluating their standards.

Cult fantasy novelist seeks payback for his creation


Fantasy writer Peter S. Beagle’s cult classic "The Last Unicorn" inspired a popular animated movie, but he hasn't seen a cent since the film's release more than 20 years ago. With their favorite author on the brink of poverty, fans are rushing to Beagle’s aid.

From 'Sailor Moon' to sexual politics: Anime meets academia


The fanciful Japanese medium that brought us "Pokemon" and "Dragon Ball Z" has arrived in the United States as a serious art form.

“Where’d you learn to speak like thee-at?”


A historic vowel shift is transforming American English. Where's Professor Higgins when we need him?

Want to travel and see the world? Try farming


Low-budget world travelers can now pay for room and board in remote areas by working on farms.

'As seen on TV' exercise gadgets thrive despite being often discredited

"As seen on TV" exercise machines still have strong sales, surviving intensified scrutiny from watchdog groups and a more challenging media environment.

Big hiring gap expected as generation of experienced government workers retires

Are you good enough for government work? Communities across the nation hope so, as they look to find replacements for a generation of public service workers that is nearing retirement.

In Eastern Europe, make way for the Yeppies


Since the collapse of communism in Russia's former satellites, young eastern professionals--yes, Yeppies--have been invading the business executive suites where decisions had formerly been made by government fiat. How are these new MBAs doing? Pretty well, it appears.