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Foreign Briefing

October 25, 2009

1 Samoa Islands

A devastating tsunami on Sept. 30 that killed more than 150 people on the islands also hit the National Park of American Samoa, damaging its headquarters and visitor center and washing away some artifacts, officials said. The park, known for its tropical forests, archaeological treasures and coral reefs, was closed to visitors.

-- Associated Press

2 Mexico

Biologists and park workers at this country's monarch butterfly reserve raced to cut down up to 9,000 fir trees infected with the bark beetle before the butterflies arrive later this month for the winter. Using insecticide to control the infestation was rejected because it would also endanger the butterflies, experts said.

-- Associated Press

3 Haiti

The poorest nation in the Americas is hoping that cruise-ship calls and plans for a new airport at Cap-Haitien and a new road will revive its tourism industry, which has suffered in recent years because of poverty and political violence. The world's biggest ship, Royal Caribbean's Oasis of the Seas, plans regular calls on the beach resort of Labadee starting in December. The new road would connect Labadee to a park with a historic fortress and palace built by slave-revolt leader Henri Christophe.

-- Reuters

4 France

Dozens of painters who sell portraits and street views to tourists in the colorful Montmartre district of Paris protested the city's plans to triple the rents for their patches on the coveted Place du Tertre. Adding insult to injury, the artists said they learned that the city classifies them as "hawkers." District Mayor Daniel Vaillant said the complaints were overblown, considering that "people say that several thousand euros can be made every week" by street artists.

-- Reuters

5 Morocco

One of the most fabled hotels in Marrakech reopened after a three-year, $176-million makeover that restored its elegant Arabic craftsmanship and added a spa and restaurants, among other changes. The Mamounia, built in 1923, has hosted Winston Churchill, Franklin Roosevelt and the Rolling Stones, among other celebrity guests. Room rates start at about $776 per night.

-- Associated Press

6 Kenya

A severe drought is thinning the wildlife that draws tourists to this East African nation. Among the areas affected is Tsavo National Park, where dozens of elephants have died of hunger and thirst in the last month, officials said. The elephants, which are moving closer to human settlements in search of food, are also being targeted by poachers.

-- Reuters

7 China

Visitors to China should consider buying travel insurance to cover the possibility that they may be quarantined if they arrive with fever or flu-like symptoms, the U.S. State Department said. In a travel alert, the department said that U.S. citizens, thousands of whom reported being quarantined earlier this year on suspicion of having the H1N1 swine flu virus, could face stepped-up enforcement in fall and winter. It added visitors must obey local health laws and that "U.S. officials are unable to influence the duration of stay in quarantine."

-- Times staff

Caution spots

The U.S. State Department recently issued warnings or alerts for these areas:

* Lebanon, because of safety and security concerns.

* Cuba, because of quarantining of visitors suspected of having the H1N1 swine flu virus.

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