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The World's Major Art Thefts

Major art thefts around the world over the past decade, as the trial of six Romanians accused of stealing seven masterpieces from a Dutch museum last October is set to open on Tuesday in Bucharest:

October 16, 2012: Seven masterpieces, including works by Picasso, Matisse, Monet and Gauguin, were stolen in a pre-dawn heist at Rotterdam's Kunsthal museum. Prosecutors say the paintings were worth 18 million euros ($24 million), although experts initially put their collective value at up to 100 million euros.

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Russia Reinstates Imperial Name to St Petersburg Station

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has reinstated the imperial name of a train station outside Saint Petersburg that is used by tens of thousands of tourists visiting the former palaces of the tsars, state media said Sunday.

Medvedev ordered the train station to use its original name of "Tsarskoe Selo" (Tsar's Village), which it lost almost a century ago in 1918 shortly after the Bolshevik revolution and the fall of the Romanov dynasty, according to a government decree.

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Kentucky Creationist Museum Aims at Wider Audience

The Kentucky museum where dinosaurs and biblical characters coexist has rolled out new exhibits and attractions — some with no religious message — to try to bring in new visitors.

The Creation Museum has added a bug exhibit that would fit right in at a natural science center, an outdoor zip line course and a display examining whether the dragons of ancient tales were actually dinosaurs.

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Smithsonian Adds Irving Penn Images to Collection

The Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington said Friday it's ramping up its photography collection with the acquisition of 100 images from the late Irving Penn.

They include rare street photographs from the 1930s and 1940s, most of them unpublished, as well as images from post-war Europe and examples of Penn's iconic fashion, portrait and still-life photography.

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Monasteries Decline as TV and Smartphones Grip Bhutan

Kencho Tshering, a red-robed Buddhist monk, takes a call from the King of Bhutan's office, then duly dashes off to start a ceremony praying for a break in the monsoon rains.

But while he may be on speed dial for royal requests, the clout of his fellow monks is on the wane in the remote kingdom as it absorbs the impact of technology and democracy as well as an abuse scandal.

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Algeria Islamic Council Berates Ramadan 'Non-Fasters'

Algeria's High Islamic Council condemned on Wednesday a group of Berbers who organized a public lunch during the Ramadan fast to protest against its official imposition.

During the day on Saturday, some 500 "non-fasters" gathered in Tizi Ouzou, east of the capital, where they publicly ate, drank and smoked to make their point.

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Helsinki Expects a New Bid for a Guggenheim Museum

Helsinki is waiting to receive a second proposal for a Guggenheim museum in the Finnish capital, a city official said Tuesday, after rejecting the first offer mainly due to its high cost.

Plans for a Finnish Guggenheim franchise costing around 140 million euros ($186 million) were turned down by the Helsinki city council in a close vote in May last year, despite having the backing of center-right mayor Jussi Pajunen.

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Gay Muslims in Turkey: Torn Between Religion and Sexuality

"When I was a child, I was told that homosexuals would burn in hell," said Ertugrul, a Muslim fighting for greater freedom for gays in a country where homosexuality remains taboo.

Ertugrul, who did not want to give his last name, is president of the group Muslims and Gays, which he says wants to "break taboos" in Muslim-majority Turkey, where gays are still subject to violence and abuse.

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As French Idea of Restaurant Changes, so Does Law

The country that gave us the words restaurant, bistro and cuisine is changing how it eats.

For the first time in France, fast food overtook traditional restaurant receipts as the economic crisis deepened, and the share of people who pack a lunch for work is rising faster by the year. Meanwhile, lurid reports of the increasing number of traditional restaurants resorting to frozen pre-packaged meals to hold down their prices have shaken France's sense of culinary identity.

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Iraqi Teams Face Off to be 'Lords of the Ring'

"Who's the hero of Iraq?" roars Mohanned al-Hindi, parading like a wrestler in a ring and cheered by fans, after winning the traditional Ramadan game of Mheibis.

His victory is not one of brawn, but one of careful observation -- Hindi has found the ring that a member of the opposing team held hidden in the palm of his hand, thereby scoring a point in the Mheibis championship round.

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