Newsstand for Early September, 2018
Read all about it! Boise and Fargo are cool. China uses travel spending as a big stick. Oregon's Willamette Valley is comparatively uncrowded and unhurried. Baseball's most frequent flyer. Interstate 95 is finally finished. The ugly (and racist) American tourist. Aretha Franklin and that amazing 2015 performance. John McCain's flight games.

Coast to Coast: What America Looks Like on Labor Day
Most of the world celebrates working people on May Day, but the United States created Labor Day, which also marks the unofficial end of the American summertime. What does America look like on Labor Day, 2018? The capital of Idaho, Boise (left), now "combines remnants of frontier charm with appreciation of fine food, local history and Basque culture." Meanwhile, Fargo isn't the goofy community portrayed in the Coen Brothers classic movie Fargo or its television spin-off. The genuine Fargo--and its sister community of Moorhead, Minnesota, across the Red River--has a gentle "Scandinavian sense" that is "quirky, colorful and full of surprises." On the West Coast, the Willamette Valley of Oregon has become one of the nation's prime wine-growing regions. Located between hipster-centric Portland and the more sedate Eugene with the state capital of Salem smack-dab in the middle, the Willamette region "remains relatively uncrowded and unhurried"--at least compared to California's Napa and Sonoma Valleys. Back East, the news on Labor Day Weekend is the completion of Interstate 95. Launched 60 years ago, the interstate highway cuts through the most densely populated regions of the country and represents a fifth of the nation's road miles. Yet I-95 remained unfinished due to the recalcitrance of interests in southern New Jersey near the Pennsylvania border.

Aretha's Worldwide Impact--and That Night in Washington
The global outpouring of love for Aretha Franklin since her death two weeks ago reaches its apex on Friday (August 31) with a star-studded funeral service in her hometown of Detroit. Tributes to the late Senator John McCain (see below) may dominate the cable-news television networks, but you can stream Aretha's services at NPR. What's most amazing about the commentary on the Queen of Soul has been the constant screenings of and references to her stunning 2015 performance of A Natural Woman at Washington's Kennedy Center. It instantly went viral, of course--I even flagged it in the JoeSentMe newsletter the week it broadcast--but that one clip has only grown more popular in the days since her death. The New York Times put together a first-person account from musicians, actors and Kennedy Center executives who were at the event. The Atlantic magazine used the clip to explain the song and the worldwide influence of Franklin's artistry. And, of course, The New Yorker was so moved by Franklin's 2015 performance that editor James Remnick offered a deep dive on her enduring importance in 2016. The piece has been widely quoted since her death. Years earlier, Carole King, who wrote the music to A Natural Woman and was the woman Franklin honored at the Kennedy Center, reflected on the song and Franklin's 1967 original performance.

Friend or Foe, China Uses Its Spending As a Big Stick
China's growing influence in the travel world has been evident for years. International hotel chains are adding hundreds of branches in the country. Chinese airlines are extending their wings around the world. But China is hardly a neutral player. Cross the country's powers that be and they retaliate by making sure Chinese travel spending dries up. That's what happened to Palau, the South Pacific island aligned with Taiwan. "There is an ongoing discussion about China weaponizing tourism," says an owner of two hotels on Palau. And if Chinese officials want something done--ostracizing its Muslim Uighur population, for example--they are not above exerting serious financial pressure on neighbors. Even being a friend of China isn't particularly good news, however. Malaysia fears that it has become overly indebted "for big projects that are neither viable nor necessary--except to China." (One large development, a deepwater port in Kuantan, is pictured above.) The financial fact of the matter, according to Bloomberg, is that China will surpass the United States as an Asia region superpower by 2030. But global suzerainty may be more costly than even the fast-growing Chinese economy can bear. The United States spends about $600 billion annually--3.1 percent of GDP--on defense. China spends only around $228 billion, or 1.9 percent of GDP. As a percentage of its national output, that's less than half what Russia spends and only a fifth of Saudi Arabia's outlay.

John McCain and the Fake Piety of Connecting Flights
John McCain's military and political careers have become well-trodden ground since his death last weekend. But a lesser known tale was his involvement in America West Airlines' acquisition of a nonstop route between Washington/National Airport and its Phoenix hub. McCain went to bat for his hometown airline and convinced the U.S. government to make an exception to the perimeter rule that restricts longer-haul flights at National Airport. McCain then went years ostentatiously taking connecting flights rather than the National-Phoenix nonstop, all to support his claim that he'd done nothing untoward for a Phoenix-based business or for his personal convenience. Of course, the story is more complicated than McCain made it sound, a reality pragmatically explained by Gary Leff. America West was eventually merged with US Airways and US Airways eventually reverse merged into American. The Phoenix-National flight continues along with other long-haul flights that have slipped through political loopholes in National's perimeter rule.

Tight Connections ...
      Split-Fingered Frequent Flyer Oliver Drake has set a dubious baseball record: He's playing for his fifth team this season. The 31-year-old frequently moving, frequently flying pitcher is best-known for his split-finger fastball and is currently with the Minnesota Twins after stops in Milwaukee, Cleveland, Los Angeles (with the Angels) and Toronto.
      Paying for Access The Plaza Premium chain of airport lounges has a new idea: a pay-to-visit first class lounge. The first of the first class lounges are in Hong Kong and Kuala Lumpur. Two hours of access cost about US$75.
      The Ugly American Is Racist, Too So what happens when the Ugly American tourist is a racist, too? It gets very ugly as he strikes employees at a Ugandan hotel, hurls epithets and accuses them of being un-Christian.-- 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.