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Ritual of a Bath Denied to Japan Survivors

Of all the day-to-day hardships suffered by survivors of Japan's tsunami, the simple everyday ritual of a bath -- so important in the nation's culture -- is the thing many say they miss the most.

In a country where bathing is an elaborate and highly prized daily pleasure, the people of the washed-away city of Rikuzentakata now can only rinse their faces in cold water.

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Austria to Retain Vermeer Piece

"The Art of Painting", one of the most famous works by 17th-century Flemish artist Johannes Vermeer, should remain in Austria, the country's restitution commission recommended on Friday.

The previous owner, Jaromir Czernin, had not been compelled to sell when the painting was bought in 1940 by Adolf Hitler himself for 1.65 million Reichsmark, the commission said in a unanimous decision Friday.

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Getty Museum Returns Venus Statue to Italy

A 5th century BC marble statue caught up in a dispute between Italy and the Paul Getty museum in the United States over stolen art was returned to Italians on Thursday, as they celebrated the country's 150th anniversary.

The Venus of Morgantina was given back to Italy as part of an agreement made in 2007 with California museum, which promised to return 40 items Rome believed had been looted by art thieves.

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LA Museum Unearths Ice-Age Mammoth Skull

Excited archeologists in California are rubbing their hands: after three years' back-breaking work they are finally, painstakingly revealing the face of Zed, the ice age mammoth.

Zed is the prize find in a fossil treasure trove unexpectedly unearthed on a Los Angeles building site in 2006, when workmen digging for a new parking lot stumbled on the prehistoric beast's skull.

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Spanish Experts Discover Rare Van Dyck

Experts at a Spanish museum have revealed a previously unknown work by the 17th century Flemish master Anthony van Dyck, a Spanish newspaper said Thursday.

"The Virgin and Child" depicts the Virgin Mary with the baby Jesus in her arms watched by Mary Magdalene, King David and the Prodigal Son.

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Relics of Saint Therese arrive in Jerusalem

The relics of Saint Therese of Lisieux, a widely-revered 19th-century Roman Catholic nun, made a solemn entry into Jerusalem on Wednesday, the start of a tour of the Holy Land until May 31.

While the relics, fragments of the French saint's femur and foot bones, have been on a world tour for many years their arrival in Tel Aviv on Monday marked their first time in the land she longed to visit in life.

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Iraqi City Rushes to Get Ready as Islamic Culture Capital

A half-billion-dollar effort to showcase Iraq's holiest Shiite city to the world is coming down to the wire as many contracts remain unsigned and funds are being hastily re-allocated.

Preparations for Najaf to become the Arab world's Islamic Capital of Culture next year are underway, but officials involved in its planning admit that time is short and much remains to be done.

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Exhibit Introduces Hindu Holy Art to US Audiences

Hinduism is the world's third largest religion and its oldest continuously practiced one, so it's somewhat surprising there has never been a major U.S. museum exhibition on Vishnu, one of its most important deities.

"Vishnu: Hinduism's Blue-Skinned Savior" is a new exhibit at Nashville's Frist Center for the Visual Arts that aims to introduce American art audiences to the visual beauty of the intricate ways Hindus throughout time have rendered their deities.

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Britain to Return Aboriginal Remains to Australia

A British museum said Thursday it had agreed to return 138 sets of skeletal remains of indigenous people to Australia in what it hailed as a new approach to the delicate subject of repatriation.

London's Natural History Museum will return the remains to the Torres Strait Islands off Queensland.

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Disappearing Tradition: Najaf Abaya Makers in Decline

Known across the region for its fine texture, the Najafi abaya is worn by all manner of VIPs from officials to oil-rich sheiks. But the men who produce the hand-made cloth, inheritors of a generations-old trade, are increasingly going out of business.

"Let me tell you something," said Kadhim, laughing bitterly while embroidering one of the full-length cloaks, spread across his lap. "If I could find a government job, I would stop all this.

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