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artists are forever experimenting with media to express their creativity. They use paint, ink, ceramics, wood, metal, fabrics, stone - even ice. Then there's Bill Gardner, a portraitist from Calgary, Alberta, whose likenesses fetch hundreds of dollars. He works exclusively in ... clothes-dryer lint, using colored wash for darker tones and whites or off-whites for lighter shades. The finished products are pressed between panes of glass.

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The final 60 seconds of a year are for fireworks and "Auld Lang Syne," right? Not to Joan Bershefsky of Stratford, Conn. She is campaigning for the millennium to end in silence - for the cause of world peace. Wouldn't it be "awesome," she asks, if a hush fell over Times Square as its famous crystal ball descends? She's seeking the endorsement of New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and the UN for the idea.

Consumer magazine tests, ranks '99 model vehicles

In Consumer Reports annual auto ranking, the Mercedes-Benz E320 is not only the top luxury car, but the highest-scoring vehicle the magazine has ever tested - with high marks for handling, ride, and acceleration. Ratings are based on the publication's own tests and on reports about the reliability of 490,000 vehicles from 384,000 subscribers with 1991 to 1998 model cars. The top 1999 picks by category, with approximate sales prices for well-equiped models (in thousands):

Family sedan: VW Passat $23

Small sedan: Mazda Protege $17

Driving fun: Mazda MX-5 Miata $24

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Fun for families: Audi A6 $40

XSmall sport-utility: Subaru Forester $23

Large sport-utility: Lexus RX300 $40 Pickup truck: Ford F-150 $25

Minivan: Toyota Sienna $25

'Green' vehicle (environment-friendly): Honda Civic $15

Best-tested overall: Mercedes-Benz E320 $47

- Associated Press

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