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(MENAFN - AFP) After the media, the oligarchs and the opposition, Vladimir Putin's Russia is turning up the heat on the arts, with a "blasphemous" opera, a raunchy teen dance show and an "insulting" Hollywood film all taking fire.

Claiming a mission to protect the sensibilities of the Russian people, the Kremlin and the Orthodox Church are leaning on artists to imbue their ...

 
(MENAFN - AFP) Lebanon's land exports to Gulf markets have been choked off, leaving millions of dollars in goods stranded after the closure of a vital crossing on the Syrian-Jordanian border last month.

The Nasib border point was the last remaining gateway for Lebanese truck drivers transporting agricultural and industrial products to Iraq and Gulf countries.

After ...

 
(MENAFN - AFP) Shell has agreed with Nigerian fishing community of Bodo in the Niger Delta to start the clean up of two devastating oil spills in 2008, activists and locals said Saturday.

"Shell officials met with representatives of Bodo community in Port Harcourt yesterday (Friday). The meeting was attended by officials of the Dutch embassy, UNEP (United Nations Environment ...

 
(MENAFN - AFP) The foreign minister of Japan said Saturday that Tokyo wants to launch "large scale cooperation" with Havana to support the island's reforms.

In the first visit to Cuba by a Japanese foreign minister, Fumio Kishida, speaking during a meeting with Cuban counterpart Bruno Rodriguez, said Japan supports US and Cuban efforts to normalize relations and that Tokyo ...

 
(MENAFN - AFP) For many visitors to Lourdes it comes as a surprise that the saint whose visions of the Virgin Mary made the French town a major Catholic pilgrimage site is not actually buried there.

The remains of Bernadette Soubirous are now the subject of a tug-of-war between those who want her brought home, and the town of Nevers where her body is preserved in a shrine.

Lourdes, ...

 
(MENAFN - AFP) From an improvised studio in his house in a rural corner of Ireland, Father Ray Kelly has become a global singing sensation and new fans now mingle with long-time parishioners in his flock.

The 62-year-old clergyman's unexpected music career kicked off a year ago and now includes a platinum-selling album, 42 million YouTube hits and chat show appearances all ...

 
(MENAFN - AFP) Fifteen-year-old schoolgirl Payali knew she was doing wrong when she scribbled mnemonics on her hands before entering one of India's thousands of examination rooms.

But like many other students, the pressure to pass her annual exams was too intense and so she used the memory prompts to cheat.

Failure would jeopardise her chances of climbing out of poverty ...

 
(MENAFN - AFP) Christie's auction house is hoping to set new world records with a Picasso valued at $140 million and a Giacometti worth $130 million, as New York's spring auction season kicks off Tuesday.

Pablo Picasso's colorful "The Women of Algiers (Version 0)," depicting a scene from a harem, will be up for grabs when Christie's puts it on the auction block May 11.

The ...

 
(MENAFN - AFP) She is a chemical engineer and he a painter turned security guard -- the Koleshevs are the hidden face of the "working poor" in Bulgaria, the EU's most impoverished country.

"Our salaries amount to about 950 leva (485 euros, $495) per month," Katia Kolesheva, 49, tells AFP in the family's one-bedroom flat in the town of Buhovo outside Sofia that they share ...

 
(MENAFN - AFP) Streaming television is now mainstream, although it has not caused many people to "cut the cord" for traditional pay TV. Not yet, anyway.

More than half of Americans now stream movies or television programs using the Internet, according to various surveys.

The vast majority of American households subscribe to cable or satellite services which offer "bundles" ...

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