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Ritual Slaughters Allowed in South African Cities

South Africans can perform ritual animal slaughters in urban areas as long as they respect basic hygiene and city ordinances, the national cultural rights commission said Tuesday.

Its ruling came after animal rights activists challenged the traditional ritual of slaughtering cattle to communicate with God and the ancestors for blessings, protection or healing.

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Iranians Enjoy Holiday Freedoms in Christian Armenia

Iranian boys in jeans and leather jackets and girls in short dresses lose themselves in the rhythms of their idols, swaying to the beat and mouthing lyrics which are banned in their home country.

Singers who are not allowed to play live in Iran entertain their fans every year at the Sport-Concert Complex in neighboring Armenia -- a relatively liberal Christian country which is attracting increasing numbers of tourists from the Islamic republic during the Persian new year festival of Nowruz.

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Nine Large Blasts Shake Sirte in Libya

Nine powerful explosions early Monday shook the city of Sirte as rebels closed in on loyalist troops holding Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi's home town, an Agence France Presse journalist reported.

The latest blasts followed two explosions on Sunday evening in the city, blamed by Libyan state television on an air raid by coalition forces.

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France's Star Philosopher Shines for Libyan Cause

With his open shirt and flowing dark mane, France's most infamous public intellectual has adopted the cause of Libyan freedom, taking an outsized role in French foreign affairs in the process.

Even his detractors -- and he has many -- acknowledge that Bernard-Henri Levy helped engineer France's path breaking recognition of Libya's fledgling rebel authority, a major impetus for the coalition then gathering to back its struggle.

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Mayan Statue Sold for Record Price is Fake

A Mayan statue that sold for the record price of nearly three million Euros ($4.2 million) at a Paris auction this week is a fake, the Mexican government said Tuesday.

"The piece... is a fabrication, because it belongs to none of the pre-Hispanic cultures in Mexico," the foreign ministry and the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) said in a joint statement.

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Queen Marie-Antoinette's Desk Back in Versailles Palace

Nearly 222 years after the French Revolution, a desk made by royal cabinetmaker Jean-Henri Riesener is back in the Versailles Palace after being acquired by the French state for 6.75 million Euros ($9.4 million).

French Culture Minister Frederic Mitterrand on Monday officially turned over to the palace the elegant piece which has been classified as "a work of major cultural value".

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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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