Travel Newsstand for Aug. 16-30 2018
Read all about it! Yes, the Genoa bridge collapse could happen here. The first IKEA opens in India and it makes worldwide headlines. Canada and Saudi Arabia are in a nasty diplomatic spat and flights between the two nations are one of the first victims. Truly bad meals on the road. Osama bin Laden's mother speaks. And much more.

Genoa Bridge Collapse Could--Probably Will--Happen Here
The collapse of Morandi Bridge in the Italian port city of Genoa on Tuesday (August 14) was shocking, of course. But it may not have been all that surprising. Leading engineers and architects publicly fretted for years about the deteriorating state of the span. The death toll has surged past three dozen and recriminations abound. But affixing the blame won't be easy. Italy's most important roads are operated and maintained for the nation by a publicly traded company, Autostrada, under the terms of a 30-year agreement signed in 2008. (The technical quasi-privatization is explained by Corriere Della Sera, Italy's leading newspaper. The explainer is in Italian, but Google Translate will help there.)

The calamitous event is captured in a series of amazing photographs from Reuters (left). But don't gawk and think it can't happen here. It can--and probably will if you believe the conclusions of the American Society of Civil Engineers. The organization's most recent Infrastructure Report Card gives America's underpinning a dismal overall grade of D+. Our bridges get a C+. Roads and levees receive an even more discouraging grade of D. The cause? Decades of deferred action and political disinterest. And we're not alone. They're worried about infrastructure in Germany, too. Even in that well-maintained nation, "many bridges were built in the 1960s and 1970s and ... not designed to sustain the weight" of modern traffic.

Still, it would be an even greater tragedy if you viewed Genoa as only the home of a horrific incident. I wrote a column on the lively and prosperous--yet rarely visited--city last summer and concluded Genoa "remains a redoubt of Italians being Italians without the slightest care what foreigners think."

The First IKEA in India Makes Global Headlines
Big-box stores may be suffering in North America, but India hasn't yet succumbed to the lure of shopping on the Net. One case in point: last week's opening of the first IKEA store in the country. As the explains, the initial branch of the global Swedish operation is located on a 13-acre spot in the HITEC district of Hyderabad, a community of about 8 million people in the southeastern state of Andhra Pradesh. The opening of IKEA in India has attracted worldwide publicity. The Wall Street Journal reports the Hyderabad branch has an in-house assembly team, a first for IKEA. Why break the mold? Upmarket Indian customers are used to custom-built furniture, so IKEA feared its traditional DIY model wouldn't fly as well on the subcontinent. It's not the only change IKEA has made to appeal to Indian tastes, either. The New York Times reports prices have been tweaked, India-specific products added--and samosas replace Swedish meatballs in the restaurant. There'll be more colorful accessories, but no leather, adds the South China Morning Post. The chain reportedly wants to open another two dozen stores in India in the next seven years. Will it work? Hard to say, but the Hindustan Times says 40,000 customers swarmed the 400,000-square-foot store on opening day.

Canada-Saudi Arabia Squabble Spills Over Into Travel
Here we are back at the intersection of travel and politics, but this time the battle is between Canada and Saudi Arabia. On August 3, a tweet from the Canadian Foreign Ministry gently criticized Saudi treatment of a woman's-right activist. That led to a furious response from the government of alleged reformer Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (left). Trade ties were cut, ambassadors were booted or recalled and the diplomats did their dance. But travel is inevitably a victim of the governmental and political squabbles. Saudia, the government-owned flag carrier, suspended its flights to Canada. Now flyers hoping to fly between the two countries will have to do it via a third nation.

In response to the end of flights between Toronto and Jeddah and Riyadh, Canadian foreign affairs minister, the former journalist Chrystia Freeland, stood her ground. "We are always going to speak up for human rights, we are always going to speak up for women's rights and that is not going to change," Freeland said in a story that appeared on, the Web site of the conservative-leaning TV network. Freeland, of course, works for Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Her comments and actions have drawn criticism from the previous foreign minister, John Baird, who worked for Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper. "The Canadian government is only beginning to understand how offensive their conduct has been to the Saudi government," he complained. "This is giving Canada a bad reputation." Astonishingly, Baird made his comments on Al Arabiya, a Saudi-owned TV channel. Because, apparently, Conservatives in Canada and Republicans in the United States now think nothing of bashing allies and cozying up to adversaries.

Tight Connections ...
      Xtremely Bad Dining How do you make a pretzel dangerously caloric and fatty? What's up with a 2,700-calorie breakfast burrito? Leave it to the nation's chain-food operators to cook up these awful meals and many more. They all make the Xtreme Eating list of worst menu items from the Center for Science in the Public Interest.
      Uber Doesn't Offer These Rides The official parade car of New York City is an irreplaceable 1952 Chrysler Imperial Parade Phaeton. It has transported astronauts, sports stars and visiting royalty down Manhattan's Canyon of Heroes. Only two other Phaetons were ever built. One operates as a parade car for Las Vegas. The other still labors as the parade car of Los Angeles.
      Osama Was a Good Boy Nearly 18 years after 9/11, Osama bin Laden's mother finally speaks out in public. She was interviewed by The Guardian newspaper and you won't be surprised to learn that "he was a very good kid and he loved me so much."-- 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.