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Archaeologists Dig up 3,000 Skeletons at London Site

Archaeologists in London have begun digging up some 3,000 skeletons including those of victims of the Great Plague from a burial ground that will become a new train station, the company in charge said.

A team of 60 researchers will work in shifts six days a week over the next month at the Bedlam burial ground to remove the ancient skeletons, which will eventually be re-buried at a cemetery near London.

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Japan Marks 70th Anniversary of Tokyo Fire Bombing

Japan on Tuesday marked the 70th anniversary of the firebombing of Tokyo by U.S. forces, a night that left an estimated 100,000 people dead in one of the bloodiest episodes of World War II.

On the night of March 9-10, 1945, American planes rained incendiary bombs on Tokyo's "Shitamachi" area -- an old neighborhood packed with wooden houses.

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Vatican Offered Stolen Michelangelo Papers for Cash

A thief who stole two historic and hugely valuable documents written by Michelangelo offered to return them to the Vatican's archives for cash, a spokesman for the Holy See revealed on Monday.

Confirming the 1997 theft of the papers for the first time, the spokesman said the offer had been made recently to a top Church official, Cardinal Angelo Comastri.

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Italy Showcases Matisse's Oriental Influences

The influence of Arab, African and Asian art on Henri Matisse is the theme of a major collection of the French artist's work that has gone on show in Rome.

The exhibition, "Matisse Arabesque", runs until June 21 at the Scuderie del Quirinale, the former stables of Italy's presidential palace which have been transformed into a museum that boasts spectacular views over the Eternal City.

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Franco Symbols Live on in Spain 40 Years after his Death

Four decades after the death of dictator Francisco Franco, Spain has not completely turned the page on his dictatorship as dozens of monuments honoring his regime are still scattered across the country.

"It would be inconceivable to see a statue of the Fuhrer in Germany or of Il Duce in Italy," said Eduardo Ranz, a 30-year-old lawyer who is leading efforts to have the Franco symbols removed.

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U.N. Chief Calls on World to Stop Destruction of Iraqi Sites

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on the international community Sunday to halt the destruction by Islamic State jihadists of Iraqi archaeological sites, branding the smashing of priceless and ancient artifacts a "war crime".

Ban's comments came hours after Iraq's tourism and antiquities minister called on the U.S.-led coalition carrying out air strikes against the militants to try to protect the sites, stating: "We request aerial support."

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Facebook Atheist Risking Jail Seeks to Flee Egypt

Karim al-Banna, who on Monday could hear an appeal court uphold his three-year jail term for "insulting" Islam with his atheism, wishes he could live anywhere but his native Egypt.

"All I want now is to leave Egypt. Life is not possible for atheists here," the 23-year-old engineering student told Agence France-Presse from his home in the Mediterranean city of Alexandria.

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Coalition Must Defend Iraq Heritage Sites

The U.S.-led coalition carrying out air strikes against the Islamic State group must try to protect archaeological sites being destroyed by the jihadists, Iraq's tourism and antiquities minister said Sunday.

IS smashed priceless artefacts at the Mosul museum, then bulldozed the city of Nimrud, which was founded in the 13th century BC.

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Drag Queens, Dancers Celebrate Sydney's Gay Mardi Gras

From drag queens to scantily-clad dancers, thousands of people paraded through Sydney on Saturday for the annual Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras which this year highlighted homophobia in sport.

Spectators thronged Darlinghurst's Oxford Street for the colorful parade which featured some 150 floats ranging from 'dykes on bikes' motorcyclists to those calling for same-sex marriage.

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Animal Trances and Tattoos at Thai Buddhist Festival

It begins with moans, then screams and feverish dancing followed by mad dashes through a densely packed crowd.

Thousands of Buddhist devotees gathered Saturday at Thailand's Wat Bang Phra temple for an annual festival celebrating traditional Sak Yant tattoos, which wearers believe will bring them good luck and protection from harm.

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