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Peacock-Culling Plan Ruffles Feathers in India's Goa

The chief minister of India's popular tourist state of Goa moved to smooth ruffled feathers Saturday after a proposal to reclassify the national bird, the peacock, as vermin sparked an outcry.

Laxmikant Parsekar appeared to rule out including peacocks in a list of "nuisance animals" being drawn up by the state to make them easier to cull, according to the Press Trust of India.

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Roses are Red, Elbows are Blue: Japanese Women Fight for their Valentines

Elbowing each other in the stampede to buy Valentine's Day chocolate for the men in their lives, Japanese women brought stores to a standstill Saturday.

In Japan, the menfolk do sweet nothing on February 14 while the women do battle in heaving aisles, loading up on confectionery treats for the object of their desire.

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Saudi FM Says 'Be Patient' on Women's Rights

Saudi Arabia's foreign minister defended his country's treatment of women on Friday, saying it had made progress on female education but would take time to let them drive cars.

"When it comes to issues like women's driving, this is not a religious issue, it's a societal issue," Adel al-Jubeir told an audience at the Munich Security Conference.

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Iran Rules 'Decadent' Valentine's Day Celebrations a Crime

Iran says it is cracking down on Valentine's Day celebrations and shops engaging in them will be guilty of a crime.

Iranian news outlets reported the police directive Friday warning retailers against promoting "decadent Western culture through Valentine's Day rituals."

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Fire Hits Roof of Prague's National Museum

A large fire torched the roof of the Czech National Museum in Prague's central Wenceslas Square in the early hours of Friday morning, firefighters told AFP.

"The fire hit about 200 square metres (2,150 square feet) of the roof and the attic," Prague fire brigade spokeswoman Pavlina Adamcova told AFP, adding the museum's collections were not affected.

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Spain Dismantles Falcon Trafficking Ring Destined for UAE Races

Spanish police said Thursday they had dismantled an international ring that smuggled falcons to the United Arab Emirates, where bird-of-prey racing is an elite sport.

"Over the past few years, more than 500 specimens of these birds may have been exported at a value of over one million euros ($1.1 million)," the Guardia Civil police force said in a statement.

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Brazil's Catholic Church Rejects Zika Abortion Argument

The Catholic Church in Brazil on Wednesday rejected calls supported by the United Nations to allow abortion in cases of the birth defect microcephaly.

Abortion is restricted in Latin America's biggest country to cases of rape, where the fetus has no brain, or where the mother's life is in danger.

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Pope Unleashes 'Super Confessors' to Tackle Special Sins

Dubbed 'super confessors', for one year only they can absolve sins usually only pardoned by the pope himself.

And on Wednesday over 1,000 of these "missionaries of mercy", handpicked by Pope Francis, were sent forth to win back the hearts of those who have left the Catholic Church and open the door to repentant sinners across the world.

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UAE Names Women Ministers for Happiness, Tolerance

The United Arab Emirates on Wednesday named women to the newly created posts of state ministers for happiness and tolerance, and a 22-year-old female for youth affairs.

Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum named eight women as he revealed his latest cabinet line-up of 29 ministers in a series of tweets.

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Russian Church Hopes 'Historic' Pope Talks Will Reset Ties

The Russian Orthodox Church on Tuesday said it hoped a historic first meeting between its Patriarch Kirill and Pope Francis would herald a new era of cooperation between two Christian branches that have been estranged for centuries.

The Vatican announced Friday that the pair will meet in Cuba next week, in the first gathering of its kind since the bitter 11th-century split that divided Christianity into Western and Eastern branches.

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