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Merkel Stresses Media Freedom after Police Blocked TV Crew at Far-Right Rally

German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Thursday stressed the importance of media freedom amid a widening scandal over police who obstructed a TV crew at a far-right rally against her.

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Sudan, Music Capital: Album Recalls Former Rhythm Beacon

Traveling Africa in search of its music, Vik Sohonie was struck by a common influence -- Sudan, whose songs still hold power over a generation in much of the continent.

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Pope Condemns 'Atrocities' of U.S. Clerical Child Abuse

Pope Francis condemned Monday the "atrocities" revealed by a far-reaching U.S. report into clerical child sex abuse in the state of Pennsylvania issued last week.

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Muslim Pilgrims Gather at Mount Arafat for Hajj's Pinnacle

Some 2 million Muslim pilgrims gathered on Monday in the valley of Mount Arafat in Saudi Arabia for a day of prayer that marks the pinnacle of the annual hajj.

Pilgrims stood shoulder to shoulder for an emotional day of repentance and supplication at the site Muslims believe the Prophet Muhammad delivered his final sermon, calling for equality and for Muslims to unite. According to the hadiths, traditional collections of the prophet's sayings and anecdotes about his life, Muhammad also reminded his followers of women's rights and that every Muslim life and property is sacred.

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Saudi Arabia Prepares for the Annual Muslim Hajj Pilgrimage

Saudi Arabia is preparing to host the annual hajj pilgrimage beginning Sunday, as over 1.6 million Muslim faithful from abroad have arrived in the ultraconservative kingdom.

The pilgrimage represents one of the five pillars of Islam and is required of all able-bodied Muslims once in their life. In recent weeks, the faithful have arrived in Mecca from across the world, all chanting "Labayk Allahuma Labayk," or "Here I am, God, answering your call. Here I am."

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Pilgrims Descend on Mecca for 'Smart Hajj'

Two million Muslims gather in Saudi Arabia this week for the hajj as the annual pilgrimage becomes increasingly hi-tech with apps to help the faithful navigate Islam's holiest sites.

This year the hajj comes with the ultra-conservative kingdom witnessing an unprecedented pace of change, finally ending a ban on women driving while remaining firm in the face of any dissent.

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Iraq Religious Tourism Squeezed by Iran Sanctions

With hotels facing mass cancellations, Iraqis in the holy city of Najaf are being hit hard by US sanctions on neighbouring Iran, which have forced cash-strapped pilgrims to stay home.

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Antiquities Museum Reopens in Syria's Rebel-Held Idlib

An antiquities museum in Syria's rebel-held province of Idlib said to house one of the world's oldest dictionaries reopened on Monday after five years, an AFP correspondent said.

Dozens of visitors trickled into the museum in Idlib city to see what an official said represented just a fraction of the building's collection.

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Beatles' Indian Hideaway Comes Together, 50 Years On

Fifty years after the Beatles came to India, the bungalows where the Fab Four lived, the post office where John Lennon sent Yoko Ono postcards and the giggling guru's house are all ruins.

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Cows Help Rehabilitate Prisoners in Sweden

It's barely 6:00 am and Alfred is already busy milking cows. But when his chores on the farm are done, he won't be going home -- he'll be returning to his prison cell.

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