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Madrid's Prado Suffers Drop in Visitor Numbers

Madrid's prestigious Prado Museum said Tuesday that visitor numbers were down slightly last year despite some star exhibitions, such as one by English master J.M.W. Turner.

Some 2.732 million people visited the Prado in 2010, down from 2.764 million the previous year and the first decline since it opened a new ultra-modern wing in 2007.

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Iran Shops Banned from Selling Valentine Gifts

Shops in Iran have been banned from selling Valentine cards and gifts as the traditional lovers' day gains increasing popularity in the Islamic republic, the ILNA news agency reported on Sunday.

"In the run-up to Valentine's Day on February 14 the printing works owners' union issued a directive banning the printing and distribution of any goods promoting this day," ILNA news agency reported.

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Palestinian Psychiatrist Wins Olof Palme Prize

Palestinian psychiatrist Eyad El-Sarraj on Tuesday won the 2010 Olof Palme Prize for his "self-sacrificing and indefatigable struggle for common sense, reconciliation, and peace" in the Middle East, the Swedish jury said.

El-Sarraj, who in 1977 became the first psychiatrist to practice in Gaza, is the founder of the Gaza Community Mental Health Program (GCMHP), a non-governmental organization focused on improving the mental well-being in the Palestinian community.

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Cretan Tools Point to 130,000-Year-Old Sea Travel

Archaeologists on the island of Crete have discovered what may be evidence of one of the world's first sea voyages by human ancestors, the Greek Culture Ministry said Monday. A ministry statement said experts from Greece and the U.S. have found rough axes and other tools thought to be between 130,000 and 700,000 years old close to shelters on the island's south coast.

Crete has been separated from the mainland for about five million years, so whoever made the tools must have traveled there by sea (a distance of at least 40 miles). That would upset the current view that human ancestors migrated to Europe from Africa by land alone.

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Climate Change Makes Indian Tea Taste Different

Tea growers in northeastern India say climate change has hurt the country's tea crop, leading not just to a drop in production but also subtly altering the flavor of their brew.

Tropical Assam state, with its high humidity and lush greenery, is India's main tea growing region, producing nearly 55 percent of the country's enormous tea crop. Overall, India accounts for 31 percent of global tea production.

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Indians Get Angrier as Society Changes

With its religious retreats for meditation and yoga, India has long been sought out by Western visitors eager to escape the rat race and return home better prepared to face life's challenges.

Big cities like New Delhi and Mumbai, however, are becoming anything but havens of spiritual calm and inner peace for ordinary Indians, as the country's economy grows and more people leave the rural heartlands in search of prosperity.

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‘Hyphen Islam-Christianity’ Wins France-Lebanon 2011 Award

A 700‐page collector’s book called ‘Hyphen Islam-Christianity’ has been awarded with a Special Mention within the contest France‐Lebanon 2011 organized by the French‐writing Authors’ Association (ADELF) in France.

The book which was written by Joelle Sfeir and Nada Raphael is a human voyage into the heart of Lebanon, beyond all the preconceived ideas and political discourses.

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China Uncovers 2,400-year-old Pot of Soup

Chinese archaeologists believe they have discovered a 2,400-year-old pot of soup, sealed in a bronze cooking vessel and dug up near the ancient capital of Xian, state press said Monday.

"It's the first discovery of bone soup in Chinese archaeological history," the Global Times quoted Liu Daiyun of the Shaanxi Provincial Institute of Archaeology as saying.

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Suleiman: Lebanese Nationalism-Arab Belonging Important in Nation Building

President Michel Suleiman said Wednesday that the choice of Beirut as host of the Arab Thought Conference is an acknowledgment of Lebanon’s role in the service of Arab culture.

“The Lebanese challenge to allow all sects to participate in decision-making … increases our responsibilities” amid efforts by some people to thwart such attempts, Suleiman said during the opening of the conference at the Phoenicia intercontinental hotel in Beirut.

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Salzburg Festival to Stage All Three Mozart-Da Ponte Operas

Mozart's three greatest and best-loved operas -- "Don Giovanni", "Cosi fan tutte" and "The Marriage of Figaro" -- will top the bill at next year's Salzburg Festival, the organizers announced Wednesday.

German director Claus Guth will rework his recent readings of Mozart's three so-called "Da Ponte" operas, which he wrote with librettist Lorenzo Da Ponte, for the 2011 edition of the ultra-swank annual summer extravaganza.

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