Good news for tourist tokers
The new Dutch government has scrapped plans to ban tourists from the country's marijuana cafés. Instead of a national law requiring "weed passes" – available for residents only – the new rules will let individual cities decide whether to ban foreigners. Amsterdam's mayor says the city's 230 "coffee shops," where the drug is openly sold, will stay open to all. Otherwise tourists would simply turn to black-market sources that could not be controlled, he said. Though trafficking in marijuana is illegal in the Netherlands, no one is prosecuted for possessing a small amount.
New owner for North Korea hotel
The upscale Kempinski chain will become the first foreign company to operate a hotel in reclusive North Korea. Geneva-based Kempinski AG is taking over the long unfinished Ryugyong Hotel in Pyongyang, the capital. A partial opening is expected next year. Work on the 105-storey, pyramid-shaped structure resumed in 2009 after being halted for more than 20 years. Long an eyesore, the finished hotel promises to be a stunning landmark and one of the world's tallest hotels.
World's highest park opens
The world's highest national park has opened in Tibet on the China-Nepal border. It is called Qomolangma, after the Chinese name for Mount Everest. Everest's peak is one of five within the park boundaries that rise to more than 8,000 metres. Another 10 peaks are top 7,000 metres. The park also contains valleys, hot springs and snow-covered forests. Officials have pledged to protect the ecology and biodiversity. More than 73,000 tourists visited the area this year.
Sources: The Canadian Press, The New York Times, AP, Xinhua News Agency