The Newsstand for July 26-Aug. 9, 2018
Read all about it! The best laid plans for Cardiff Airport in Wales aren't working out. Surprising no one, U.S. carriers bow to China's demands about Taiwan. Australia and New Zealand fight over their flags--again. Where to eat if you're in Saratoga for the horses. Can tax breaks spur investments in poor communities? Cleveland after LeBron. And more.

A Million Pounds of Problems at Struggling Cardiff Airport
Ever tried to get to Cardiff, the capital of Wales? You have to fly to London, clear customs and immigration, jump on the Heathrow Express to Paddington Station and then catch still another train (about two to three hours) to Cardiff. And heaven forfend you try to get to Northern Wales. British government officials had a better idea: Buy fast-declining Cardiff Airport and hope new direct flights would follow. The government spent 52 million pounds in 2013 to acquire Cardiff from its Spanish owners. The Welsh government gave the airport a 38 million pound loan, then plowed six million pounds more into the 65-year-old facility. Passenger numbers have improved and Cardiff recently unveiled a 20-year master plan that includes a new terminal and four-star hotel.

Although the ultimate goal is a nonstop flight to the United States--and maybe restoration of British Airways service--Cardiff celebrated in May when Qatar Airways launched a route to its Doha hub. That meant Welch passengers suddenly had one-stop service to several dozen destinations around the world. But that's when reality set it. Three months after its launch, passenger loads have been weak and the fares well below acceptable airline levels. And it turns out that the Welsh government paid the Qatari carrier a million pounds to launch the flights. Worst of all, the payment has become something of a scandal because Welsh authorities initially refused to disclose the payment, claiming people would react badly to how their tax dollars were being used.

China Gets Its Way as U.S. Carriers Rewrite Their Route Maps
Several times this past spring--surf here and here--I've explained China's geographic paranoia and its demand that airlines stop referring to Taiwan as an independent nation. Most global carriers quickly bowed to Chinese pressure, but U.S. airlines were reluctant to fall in line. But it won't surprise you that, when push came to shove, they folded--and folded after not receiving any practical or rhetorical support from the U.S. government. On Tuesday (July 24), Politico noted that U.S. airlines would do China's bidding--and they'd do it by the Wednesday (July 25) deadline. Bloomberg News carried some of the U.S. airlines' cringeworthy comments. Reuters then noted that all the airlines--United, Delta, American and Hawaiian--made the change on their Web sites. By the end of the day on Wednesday, CNBC noted that Chinese foreign ministry had declared victory. Besides the U.S. carriers, almost all of the 44 foreign airlines flying to mainland China have scrubbed references to Taiwan. Now flights to Taipei or other airports on the independent island are listed without a country name. Still, Chinese authorities aren't completely happy--because authoritarian leaders are never completely happy.

Tight Connections ...
      Fun With Flags Australia and New Zealand, Southern Cross frenemies since forever, are squabbling over their similar-looking flags again. That story also has the best political line ev-ah: " 'We had a flag that we've had for a long time, copied by Australia,' Winston Peters, who is filling in for Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, while she takes maternity leave," told the The New York Times. C'mon, admit it. You never thought a newspaper would explain that a politician was filling in for a prime minister on maternity leave.
      (No) Tax and (Maybe) Spend An obscure provision in this year's tax bill may offer a glimmer of hope for down-on-the-economic-luck communities. The so-called Opportunity Zones allow "investors [to] receive huge tax breaks for building office parks, warehouses, housing, grocery stores and the like." The goal, explains The Atlantic magazine is to "ease poverty and end blight in distressed communities" via new private-sector development.
      Après LeBron The departure of LeBron James from the Cleveland Cavaliers once again has the Ohio city in a state of existential flux. The one-time "Mistake on the Lake" is plotting to turn itself into "the world's next hotbed for contemporary art." Hey, they don't call the place Believeland for nothing, folks.
      Where the Elite Eat The Saratoga Race Track in New York opened its short (seven weeks) and oh-so-trendy meet last weekend. If you are headed there to play the horses--it's 180 miles north of Manhattan and about 40 miles north of the state capital of Albany--here's one critic's guide to the ten best places to eat in the area.
      Last of the Mohicans Two Blockbuster video shops have closed in Alaska, which means the chain, once ubiquitous in strip malls around the nation, is down to a single outlet in Bend, Oregon. A decade ago, the chain had more than 9,000 units nationwide. -- Joe Brancatelli

This column is Copyright © 2018 by Joe Brancatelli. is Copyright © 2018 by Joe Brancatelli. All rights reserved. All of the opinions and material in this column are the sole property and responsibility of Joe Brancatelli. This material may not be reproduced in any form without his express written permission.