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Art Basel Takes Art World by Storm

With private jets filling the air and lines of luxury limousines on the ready, deep-pocketed collectors from around the world have flocked to Switzerland this week for Art Basel, the biggest contemporary art fair on the planet.

The 44th edition of the show opens to the public on Thursday, but the doors were nudged open already on Tuesday for special VIPs wanting an advance peek at the wide range of artwork displayed across a whopping 31,000 square metres (334,000 square feet) of exhibition space.

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In Tense Cairo, an Oasis of Religious Dialogue

With its shaded courtyard and quiet library, Cairo's Dominican Institute for Oriental Studies is an oasis of research, aimed at fostering Islamic-Christian ties in a country riven with political and religious tensions.

The internationally-reputed IDEO institute aims to encourage not just study, but dialogue between the religions, in a context where "Islam can be scary and where a country like Egypt is trying hard to find its democratic voice," director Jean-Jacques Perennes said.

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Next Dalai Lama Could be a Woman, Tibetan Leader Says

The Dalai Lama waded into Australia's bitter gender war Thursday, saying his successor as the spiritual leader of the Tibetans could be a woman.

"If the circumstances are such that a female Dalai Lama is more useful, then automatically a female Dalai Lama will come," he told a press conference in Sydney to launch a 10-day tour of Australia.

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Few Takers at Faulkner Auction in NY

A major auction of manuscripts and letters of American writer William Faulkner, a Nobel laureate, drew an underwhelming public response at auction in New York Tuesday, with the most important lots finding no buyer.

Sotheby's had classed Tuesday's event in the Big Apple as "the largest and most important group of William Faulkner material ever to appear at auction," ahead of a second event planned for London.

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Early, Forced Marriages Haunt Jordan's Syrian Refugees

With no end in sight to Syria's conflict, some refugees in Jordan are offering their daughters for early marriage in the hope of securing them protection as they face growing economic pressure.

Syrian refugee Abu Mohammad says he reluctantly opted to marry off his teenage daughter to a rich 40-year-old Saudi man, hoping to give her a better life and ease his family's financial hardships.

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Berlin Rebuilds Palace Destroyed by Allies, Communists

Berlin Wednesday kicks off the reconstruction of its palace, a divisive 590-million-euro ($783 million) project to recreate the baroque architectural jewel whose post-war remnants were razed by communist leaders.

President Joachim Gauck will attend the official laying of the foundation stone for the Berlin Palace, on the city's legendary leafy axis, Unter den Linden, which Prussian princes once called home.

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The Concert that Transformed Mandela from Terrorist to Icon

So revered is Nelson Mandela today that it is easy to forget that for decades he was considered a terrorist by many foreign governments, and some of his now supporters.

The anti-apartheid hero was on a U.S. terror watch list until 2008 and while still on Robben Island, Britain's late "Iron Lady" Margaret Thatcher described his African National Congress as a "typical terrorist organisation."

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Russia Introduces Jail Terms for 'Religious Offenders'

Russia on Tuesday passed a bill imposing jail terms of up to three years on those who offend religious believers after an anti-Vladimir Putin stunt by punk band Pussy Riot in a church polarized the predominantly Orthodox country last year.

According to the bill passed in a 308-to-2 final vote, "public actions expressing clear disrespect for society and committed with the goal of offending religious feelings of the faithful" would be punishable with jail terms of up to one year in prison and fines of up to 300,000 rubles ($9,200).

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Met Museum Returns 10th-Century Cambodian Statues

Two ancient stone statues that have been on display at New York's Metropolitan Museum for nearly 20 years are being returned to Cambodia.

Cambodian officials and Buddhist monks planned a welcome home ceremony for the 10th-century statues at the country's international airport on Tuesday.

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Musical Revolution Flowers in Remote Russian City

In a provincial music institute a thousand kilometers from Moscow, deep in Russia's Urals, a conductor and his orchestra rehearse as the spring light floods through the windows and the local trams rumble by.

But despite the far-flung location in the city of Perm, these musicians are no provincial journeymen. They are the Greek Teodor Currentzis, 41, one of the world's mostly highly-regarded conductors, and his Musica Aeterna band of Russian and European musicians.

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