Latest stories
Rare Grey Pearls to Fetch up to $7 Million in Hong Kong

A rare grey pearl necklace that once belonged to a British aristocrat is expected to fetch up to $7 million when it goes under the hammer in Hong Kong, Sotheby's said Friday.

The string of pearls was part of the collection of Viscountess Cowdray, Lady Pearson -- a renowned collector in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries.

W140 Full Story
India's Polluted Waters Cleanse Spirits at Hindu Festival

It's just water, and far from the cleanest you could find. Raw sewage often flows in the Godavari River, bringing with it high bacteria levels. Residue from sand mining can cloud the water. Farm pesticides leech through the soil.

But to the millions of Hindus expected at the Kumbh Mela festival, held this year along the Godavari, touching that water is reverential. It's a way to cleanse themselves of sin, to come close to God, to immerse themselves in a tradition that reaches back into antiquity. They have come to this city from across India and around the world. Entire villages arrive together, and their parties often last through the nights. Thousands of mystics gather.

W140 Full Story
Famed Russian Art 'at Risk' after Uzbek Museum Head Fired

A world-renowned collection of avant-garde Russian art housed in a remote museum in Uzbekistan may be at risk after the director was abruptly fired on allegedly trumped-up charges of theft, staff say. 

The alarm was raised by staff working at the Savitsky Karakalpkstan Museum who claim the director, Marinika Babanazarova, was forced to resign over allegations she had stolen works of art.

W140 Full Story
Iran Premieres Big-Budget Epic Film 'Muhammad'

Iran's most expensive movie, "Muhammad", which chronicles the childhood of the Muslim prophet, opened nationwide on Thursday, winning praise from early audiences.

Directed by Majid Majidi, the 171-minute, visually stunning film cost around $40 million (36 million euros), partly funded by the state, and took more than seven years to complete.

W140 Full Story
Millennium Sequel Hits Bookstores as Author Admits 'Total Fear'

The eagerly-awaited sequel to Stieg Larsson's best-selling Millennium crime trilogy hit store shelves in 25 countries on Thursday, as the author admitted he wrote the book in a manic depressive state.

Speaking to reporters just hours ahead of the launch, David Lagercrantz said he was "terrified" as he wrote "The Girl in the Spider's Web".

W140 Full Story
Schools in Australia Barred from Showing Gay Film

A film about children with same-sex parents has been barred from being shown in public schools throughout Australia's most populous state, despite the documentary makers Thursday insisting students will benefit.

"Gayby Baby", which chronicles four children growing up with gay parents, was due to be shown in high schools in New South Wales as part of the student-led Wear it Purple initiative on Friday, which promotes diversity and inclusiveness. 

W140 Full Story
The 'Rainbow Grandpa' Saving a Taiwan Village with Art

Huang Yung-fu greets visitors to his village in central Taiwan with paint-stained hands and shoes spattered with flecks of colour, a sign of the daily artistic labour that has seen him single-handedly stave off the developers' bulldozers.

At 93 years old, the former soldier still gets up at 3am every day to spend four hours daubing the walls of the small settlement with colourful figures, from birds and animals to celebrity singers and sportsmen.

W140 Full Story
Five Cambodians Jailed for Stealing Buddha Relics

A Cambodian court on Thursday sentenced five men to seven years in jail each for stealing a golden urn said to contain relics of Buddha after it was snatched from a mountain shrine.

The disappearance of the urn -- believed to contain hair, teeth and bones of Buddha -- and several small statues came to light in late 2013, sparking a nationwide manhunt in the Buddhist-majority country.

W140 Full Story
Tolkien's First, 'Undeniably Darkest' Prose to be Published

The first prose piece by "Lord of the Rings" author J.R.R. Tolkien is to be published in Britain on Thursday, a version of an epic Finnish poem that experts describe as "undeniably his darkest work".

Written in 1914-1915 when Tolkien was still a student at the University of Oxford, "The Story of Kullervo" shows the young author "finding his feet", Vincent Ferre, professor of comparative literature at University Paris Est-Créteil told AFP.

W140 Full Story
Iran Film Epic about Prophet Postponed

The eagerly awaited premiere of Iran's multimillion-dollar film "Muhammad" about the childhood of the prophet was postponed Wednesday for 24 hours due to technical problems, a spokesman said.

The huge production cost an estimated $40 million and took more than seven years to complete.

W140 Full Story