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France returns paintings

PARIS -- France is returning seven paintings taken from their Jewish owners during the Second World War, part of an ongoing effort to give back hundreds of looted artworks that still hang in the Louvre and other museums.

The works were stolen or sold under duress up to seven decades ago as their Jewish owners fled Nazi-occupied Europe. All seven were destined for display in the art gallery Adolf Hitler wanted to build in his birthplace of Linz, Austria, according to a catalogue for the planned museum.

At the end of the war, artworks were left "unclaimed" and many thousands that were thought to have been French-owned found their ways into the country's top museums.

The move to return the seven paintings ends years of struggle for the two families, whose claims were validated by the French government last year after years of researching the fates of the works.

Big asteroid? No worries

MONTREAL -- An asteroid about half the size of a football field will make a very close visit to Earth today.

Asteroid 2012 DA14 will pass inside the ring of satellites that circle the planet, but scientists aren't worried about a collision.

Peter Brown, a scientist at Western University in London, Ont., says it's the largest asteroid on record to pass so close to the Earth -- 27,600 kilometres.

It is expected to pass over the Indian Ocean at around 1:30 p.m. The asteroid will come so close the Earth's gravity will change its orbit, but it won't be dragged down.

Brown said the asteroid will be visible by binoculars in areas such as Indonesia, eastern Europe, Asia and Australia, although it will be moving very fast. It will be visible from North America later in the evening but only with high-powered telescopes.

NASA will provide coverage on its website, beginning at about 1 p.m.

-- from the news services

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 15, 2013 A20

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