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Writer Hosseini Condemns Western 'Fortress Mentality'

Writer Khaled Hosseini called for more tolerance for the plight of refugees, as the author of the bestselling "The Kite Runner" spoke to Agence France Presse about his latest book "And The Mountains Echoed".

"There is a kind of fortress mentality in the West," said the Afghan-born American novelist, whose new novel has a complex plot spanning from Kabul to Paris, a Greek island to California.

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The Man Behind the Emperor: Augustus Show Opens in Rome

A political genius, a great reformer, a patron of the arts -- but ancient Rome's first emperor Augustus was also a family man, as highlighted in a new exhibition that opened in Rome this week.

The show marks 2,000 years since the death of the founder of the Roman Empire and the man most associated with the "Pax Romana", a period of immense architectural and artistic achievement.

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'Frail' Munro Won't Attend Nobel Prize Ceremony

Alice Munro, 82, winner of the Nobel Literature Prize, will not be able to attend the prize ceremony in Stockholm in December, the permanent secretary of the Swedish Academy said Friday.

"Her health is simply not good enough," Peter Englund wrote on his blog.

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India Digs for Treasure on Tip from Hindu Holy Man

Archaeologists began digging for treasure beneath a 19th century fort in northern India on Friday, after a popular Hindu holy man said a former king appeared to him in a dream and told him of the cache.

The treasure hunt began after Hindu swami Shobhan Sarkar relayed his dream to an Indian government minister who was visiting the swami's ashram last month.

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New York Pupils Could Get Muslim School Holidays

School children in New York are likely to get two extra days off to mark the biggest annual Muslim holidays if the city's next mayor gets his way.

New York schools currently have mandatory holidays for the Christian festivals Easter and Christmas, and the Jewish holidays of Rosh Hashanah and Passover.

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Klimt Restitution Claim Puts Austria's Art Law to the Test

A Jewish family's claim to one of Austria's most famous artworks by Gustav Klimt is shaping up as a test of the country's restitution drive and willingness to right old wrongs.

The 34-meter-long (112-foot) and two-meter-high "Beethoven Frieze", a jewel of Jugendstil art, has been a Vienna tourism highlight since 1986.

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Beirut Ranks 20 among World's Top Tourist Destinations

Beirut ranked 20 in the list of the world's top tourist destinations, the Ministry of Tourism announced on Thursday.

"Beirut came before Paris, Melbourne, Venice and Barcelona on the list of tourism magazine Conde Nast Traveler,” the ministry said in a released statement, noting that the magazine's annual list is based on “its readers' choices.”

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Pilgrims Start Leaving Saudi Arabia after Hajj

Some 1.4 million Muslim pilgrims who came from 188 countries started leaving Saudi Arabia on Thursday at the end of this year's largely incident-free hajj.

Although the hajj, one of the five pillars of Islam, comes to a close officially on Friday, pilgrims are allowed to leave a day early after taking part in the stoning of the devil ritual.

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French Court Upholds Scientology Fraud Conviction

France's top appeals court on Wednesday upheld a fraud conviction and hundreds of thousands of euros in fines against the Church of Scientology for taking advantage of vulnerable followers.

The Cour de Cassation rejected the organisation's request that a 2009 conviction for "organised fraud" be overturned on the grounds it violated religious freedoms.

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Ex-Marcos Aide on Trial in NYC Case of Monet Work

A debt-ridden onetime aide to Imelda Marcos wrongly sold a hidden treasure: a $32 million Monet painting the former Philippine first lady had acquired and her country wants back, prosecutors said Wednesday as the ex-assistant's conspiracy trial opened.

In a New York courtroom, Vilma Bautista is facing charges that invoke the tangled history of Philippine officials' efforts to reclaim items from Marcos and her late husband, former President Ferdinand Marcos.

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