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Top Madrid Museums Boost Attendance in Gloomy Economy

Madrid's top three art museums -- the Prado, the Reina Sofia and the Thyssen-Bornemisza -- are gearing up for another good year after drawing a record number of visitors in 2011 despite the weak economy.

Throughout the year crowds of tourists line up outside the ticket offices of the three museums, which are all within an easy walk of one another on the central Paseo del Prado in the so-called "Golden Triangle of Art".

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2 Paintings Stolen from Greece's National Gallery

Greek police say thieves have broken into the country's biggest art museum in Athens and stolen two paintings.

A police spokeswoman says the theft at the state National Art Gallery took place before dawn Monday. The missing works were not identified, and there was no information on their value.

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Civil War Museums Changing as View on War Changes

Inside Louisiana's Civil War Museum, battle flags line the walls. Uniforms, swords and long-barreled guns fill museum cases beside homespun knapsacks, dented canteens and tiny framed pictures of wives that soldiers carried into battle.

In the back, there's a collection devoted to Jefferson Davis, one-time president of the Confederacy formed by the southern states which seceded from the United States in 1861, complete with his top hat and fancy shoes at the spot where his body once lay in state.

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Macedonia Inaugurates Triumphal Arch

A lavish triumphal arch resembling the Arc de Triomphe in Paris was inaugurated in Skopje Friday in a move that could stoke Macedonia's row with neighboring Greece over its identity.

The marble "Porta Macedonia", inaugurated by Culture Minister Elizabeta Kanceska-Milevska, has carved motifs from Macedonia's history up to the 1991 independence and images of historical figures, including Alexander the Great.

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Chinese Troupe Brings Vibrant Life to Tragic Tale

When the noted Chinese Ming Dynasty opera "The Peony Pavilion" came to Lincoln Center in 1999, the production lasted 20 hours, divided into six episodes.

Now this tragic but redemptive love story is back at Lincoln Center — this time in dance form, and considerably shorter: two hours, including intermission.

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Chinese Web Users Say Dragon Stamp Too Fierce

A Chinese postage stamp depicting a dragon with its fangs and claws bared has drawn sharp criticism on the nation's microblogs, with many saying it puts too frightening a face on their rising country.

The commemorative stamp went on sale Thursday ahead of the new Chinese year of the dragon, which begins on January 23, in keeping with a tradition of issuing stamps featuring the zodiac animal linked to the coming lunar year.

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Party of Mandela, S.Africa's ANC Marks 100 Years

South Africa's mighty African National Congress celebrates its centenary on Sunday, still firmly at the helm of Nelson Mandela's all-race democracy despite losing some of its shine.

Africa's oldest liberation movement expects 46 heads of state at its 100th anniversary bash that starts Friday, with 100,000 supporters set to flood into the normally placid central city of Bloemfontein.

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5,000 Relics from Titanic to Sell in New York

Five thousand items recovered from the Atlantic grave of the Titanic, from a 17-ton piece of the hull to china used to serve first-class passengers, will go on auction in New York a century after the liner sank.

The unprecedented collection will be sold as a single lot by Guernsey's Auctioneers on April 11, 100 years after Titanic's maiden voyage in the city where the doomed ship had been destined when it was holed by an iceberg off Newfoundland.

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For France's People's University, Knowledge is Power

The People's University in the northern French town of Caen is no ivory tower for the elite. Radical philosopher Michel Onfray set it up for those who were "programmed" to let education pass them by.

The lectures regularly attract about 1,000 students, among them the jobless and employed, youngsters just getting started in life and those already retired.

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Vaclav Havel Laid to Rest at Prague Cemetery

The leader of Czech's Velvet Revolution and former president Vaclav Havel, who died on December 18 aged 75, was laid to rest in a family tomb at a Prague cemetery on Wednesday, his secretary said.

Havel's second wife Dagmar, an actress, "laid the remains of her husband in a family tomb on the day and hour of the 15th anniversary of their wedding," Sabina Tancevova told Agence France Presse.

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