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Indian State Plans World's Tallest Statue

The Indian state of Gujarat has invited global tenders to help build the world's tallest statue -- a 182-meter memorial to an independence hero that will cost $300 million.

The towering 597-feet figure, which would reach almost halfway up New York's Empire State Building, will bear the likeness of Vallabhbhai Patel, the freedom fighter who guided India's integration into a united, independent nation.

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Artists Occupy Historic Rome Theater, Protesting Closure

Around 100 people have occupied a historic Italian theater where Luigi Pirandello's "Six Characters in Search of an Author" was first performed to protest plans to convert the landmark into a restaurant.

The Valle, which opened in the 18th century and was the site of Pirandello's famous opening in 1921, is Rome's oldest active theatre.

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Bulgaria Brings Home Smuggled Antiquities from Canada

Bulgaria has repatriated 21,000 smuggled coins, jewelry and other rare antiquities from Canada through diplomatic mail to save money, Culture Minister Vezhdi Rashidov said Thursday.

The seizure and return of the illegally imported cultural objects, which cover more than 2,600 years of Bulgarian history and are worth 707,000 Euros ($1 million), was the largest ever in Canada.

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Taiwan Scrubs Simplified Chinese Script

Taiwan, which sees itself as a guardian of traditional Chinese culture, has started cleansing government websites of the type of simplified script used in mainland China, officials said Thursday.

The Tourism Bureau, the main agency in charge of thousands of Chinese visitors arriving every day, was the first to remove simple characters, leaving only the more complex traditional version that is standard on the island.

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Open-Air Operas, a Classic -- if Chilly -- English Tradition

They sit on the grass in their posh frocks and dinner jackets, eating picnics between the two acts of Rossini's "Il turco in Italia". It's summer in England, and the open-air opera has returned.

Rain or shine, music-lovers bearing champagne and blankets are flocking in their thousands to glorious rural locations across Britain to enjoy the delights of Mozart, Wagner or Donizetti.

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Vatican Names First Winners of 'Ratzinger Prize' in Theology

Pope Benedict XVI will present the first Ratzinger Prize to three European theologians later this month, organizers said at the Vatican on Tuesday.

The award promotes dialogue between theology and culture at a time of "flagrant divorce" between the two, said Giuseppe della Torre, rector of Rome's Catholic LUMSA university.

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World's Top Contemporary Art Fair Opens Wednesday

The world's largest contemporary arts fair, which opens in Basel Wednesday, is set to receive some 60,000 art lovers to enjoy works by more than 2,500 artists.

The 42nd edition of Art Basel, which displays work produced in the 20th and 21st century, is still dominated by submissions from galleries in wealthy nations, organizers said.

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Prague to Host World Premiere of Vivaldi's Lost Opera

A Prague festival will host the world premiere of Antonio Vivaldi's opera L'Unione della Pace, e di Marte, following its reconstruction by a Czech expert 284 years after its only performance.

"It's a specific genre of Baroque opera, shorter, which is called 'la serenata' and which was composed for a specific occasion at that time," conductor, composer and harpsichord player Ondrej Macek told Agence France Presse.

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Poet Adonis Urges Assad to Cede Power to People

Renowned Syrian poet and intellectual Adonis urged President Bashar al-Assad to end his crackdown on popular protests and cede power to his people, in an open letter published on Tuesday.

"The Socialist Baath Party has not remained in power this long because of the strength of its ideology, but because of the power of its iron fist," wrote the French-based Adonis, winner of this year's prestigious Goethe Prize and one of the most popular poets and essayists in the Arab world.

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Vienna Museum Told to Return Nazi-Looted Art

An art commission charged with returning Nazi-plundered works has recommended a Vienna museum hand over five drawings by Schiele to the descendants of their Jewish owner, it was reported Monday.

The drawings by Austrian painter Egon Schiele (1890-1918) belonged to Viennese man Karl Maylander, who was deported to a Polish labour camp in 1941, according to culture ministry documents.

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