Forbidden City stages rare nighttime opening

Beijing’s Forbidden City has not really been forbidden to the public for decades. But it was closed at night to all but the privileged few — until last week. For the first time since 1925, when the former home of the Ming and Qing dynasties became a museum, the Forbidden City opened its doors to the public at night, allowing visitors the chance to see its palaces and temples bathed in ethereal lights. A webpage that the museum created for people to register for free tickets crashed because of traffic. The museum ultimately gave away 500 tickets for people to join 2,500 invited guests on Tuesday, and another 3,000 tickets for Wednesday night. Yang Jie, who visited the museum with her husband Tuesday, described the illuminated complex as “electrifying.” “It makes it possible to see a different side of the Forbidden City,” she said.

New YOrk Times

Non-binary gender options

When people buy plane tickets, they select a gender option: male or female. But those categories don’t cover everyone, so some major airlines are planning to offer more choices. Airlines for America and the International Air Transport Association recently approved a measure that will let their member airlines add “unspecified” and “undisclosed” as identification options. That way, the airlines’ systems could align with recent changes in some states and countries (including Minnesota) that allow people to designate their gender as “X” rather than “M” or “F” on government IDs. American Airlines is already working on adding the nonbinary option, a representative for the carrier said. Other airlines making the change include Delta, United and Alaska Airlines, according to the Daily Beast. The measure goes into effect June 1.

Los ANgeles Times

The anti-Times Square

For a New York City square that encompasses everything that Times Square isn’t, make your way 25 blocks south to Union Square, home to a lovely park where children’s laughter rings out. History resides here, yet the area remains fresh and engaging. Tread aged wood floors at Strand Book Store, a New York institution “where books are loved.” A few steps away, a split Captain America shield guards the door to Forbidden Planet, a fantasy world populated by Deadpool and Wonder Woman figurines and row upon row of comic books and graphic novels. Need to bring back a gift? You’ll find offbeat wares at Fishs Eddy and Flying Tiger Copenhagen. When you’ve worked up an appetite, head to the venerable Gramercy Tavern, celebrated for special-occasion service and farm-fresh ingredients.

Washington Post

5 killed in Cancun bar

Gunmen burst into a bar in Cancun and opened fire, killing five people and wounding five more, authorities said Feb. 16. Quintana Roo state prosecutors said that the attack took place in a club called La Kuka, which is located on a main avenue in central Cancun about 4 miles away from the seaside tourist hotel zone. Violence has been rising in Cancun and Quintana Roo amid reports of the Jalisco New Generation cartel moving into the area and fighting local gangs for control. Federal authorities reported that 774 people had been killed in the state last year, more than double the 359 killings recorded in 2017. The most recent U.S. State Department travel advisory for Mexico and Quintana Roo was issued in November and sits at Level 2 (“exercise increased caution”).

Associated Press/Staff report