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Londoners Divided on Skyscraper Boom

Skyscrapers are shooting up all over London, transforming a skyline once dominated by Big Ben and St Paul's Cathedral.

Some Londoners are delighted at their city's "Manhattanisation" but others warn it risks losing its soul.

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Japan's 'Shinkansen' Bullet Train Marks 50th Birthday

Japan's "shinkansen" train, which led the world in super-fast rail transport technology, celebrated its 50th birthday Wednesday with ceremonies hailing its contribution to the country's post-war economy and its safety record.

A sleek, airplane-shaped N700A train left Platform 19 of Tokyo's central station at 6:00 am, exactly 50 years since the launch of the service along the Pacific industrial belt between the capital and the western megacity of Osaka.

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Thieves Steal $7.6 mn Degas Painting from Cyprus Pensioner

Thieves have stolen a painting by French master Edgar Degas valued at six million euros ($7.6 million) from the home of a 70-year-old Greek Cypriot, Cyprus police said on Tuesday.

The painting, entitled "Ballerina adjusting her slipper", was taken on Monday from the home in the island's second city Limassol and was not insured, a police spokeswoman told AFP.

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Philippines to Seize Marcos widow's Art Masterpieces

Philippine authorities moved Tuesday to seize paintings by Picasso, Gauguin, Miro, Michelangelo and other masters held by Imelda Marcos after getting a court order against the former first lady.

Police and lawyers will search the homes and offices of the widow of dictator Ferdinand Marcos after a court awarded the artworks to the government, said a state body pursuing the Marcoses' allegedly ill-gotten wealth.

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Van Gogh Still Life Coming to Auction in NYC

A bouquet of wildflowers painted by Vincent van Gogh weeks before his death is going on the auction block in New York City.

Sotheby's says "Still Life, Vase With Daisies and Poppies" could sell for $30 million to $50 million on Nov. 4.

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Debut Fiction Writer Wins $25,000 Bingham Prize

The author of the story collection "Godforsaken Idaho" has won a $25,000 prize.

Shawn Vestal is the winner of the PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize for debut fiction. He was to receive the award Monday at a New York ceremony organized by the PEN American Center, the literary and human rights organization.

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IS Pillaging Iraqi Artifacts, UNESCO Warns

Islamic State jihadists occupying parts of Iraq are destroying age-old heritage sites and looting others to sell valued artifacts on the black market, experts gathered at UNESCO's Paris headquarters warned Monday.

The extremist group has destroyed shrines, churches and precious manuscripts in Mosul, Tikrit and other areas of Iraq it controls and excavated sites to sell objects abroad, in what UNESCO chief Irina Bokova described as "cultural cleansing".

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With Wheelchairs, Walking Sticks, Pilgrims Throng Mecca for Hajj

Their backs hunched, elderly Muslim pilgrims lean on walking sticks as others in wheelchairs nudge their way into Mecca's Grand Mosque where scores of people are encircling the holy Kaaba.

"Allahu akbar" (God is greater), they chant in unison.

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Turkey Bans Tattoos, Piercings in Schools

Turkey's Islamic-rooted government has banned pupils from wearing tattoos or body piercings in schools, a measure denounced by opponents as oppressive and unenforceable, reports said Sunday.

While tattoos are frowned upon by conservative elements in Turkey's diverse society, they are highly fashionable among secular urban youth, including school-age teens.

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A Rediscovered Sonata, as Mozart Intended

Balazs Mikusi's heart started racing when he realized what the papers he held in his hand were: the long-lost original score of a famous Mozart sonata scribbled by the composer himself.

"When I first laid eyes upon the manuscript, the handwriting already looked suspiciously 'Mozartish'," said Mikusi, head of the music collection at Budapest's National Szechenyi Library.

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