Travel Newsstand for Dec. 13-31, 2018
Read all about it! Marriott's data hack gets caught up in global politics and trade wars. In 2018, London's Crossrail Project lay in ruins. A flap over a new hotel in Saint Augustine, Florida. Bullets on a plane (in the in-flight food). How to walk to New York's LaGuardia Airport. The best food at LAX. The best travel movies ever--and where to watch them.

The Tangled Tale of Marriott's Hack and the China Trade War
The Marriott hack--which was actually an attack on Starwood systems that predated the 2016 merger--has swerved into politics and international trade. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (left) lays the blame for the Marriott assault on Chinese actors. Which puts the entire matter firmly in the realm of the on-again, off-again trade war with China launched by the Trump Administration. That leads directly to the arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou earlier this month as she waited for a flight in Vancouver, Canada. Her arrest was at the behest of U.S. federal prosecutors who want to extradite her for evading sanctions on Iran, but President Trump said this week that he considers Meng a bargaining chip in the wider trade war. (This isn't the first time President Trump might allow a major Chinese tech firm to slide if it suited his whim. As you recall, he also reversed sanctions on ZTE, the Chinese telecom giant.) Trump can legally intervene in Meng's extradition, of course, but there may be political consequences. Meanwhile, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross denied the United States may issue a warning against China travel because China could retaliate for Meng's arrest by detaining an American executive. Where and how does this all come together? Your guess is surely as good as mine. Meng was required to surrender her passport, but she is now out on bail in Vancouver, where she owns a home. Two Canadian diplomats turned businessmen have been detained in China under suspicious circumstances. And Starwood's former vice president of technology blames Marriott for the hack. He claims that Marriott's decision not to use Starwood's computer systems after the merger was a flawed strategy.

News From the Ministry of Silly London Rail Projects
As the fellows at Monty Python's Flying Circus would say at the beginning of their especially ridiculous skits, "In 2018, the City of London's Crossrail project lay in ruins ..." You remember the 73-mile Crossrail, right? It's the $20 billion London rail project dubbed the Elizabeth Line. Not only is it Europe's "largest" infrastructure project, but it is also a public-works operation designed to prove that British engineers still had some mojo. "Enjoy the engineering excellence," the project's Web site boasts about the 26 miles of tunnels under London. British pols regularly touted Crossrail's on-time, on-budget opening this month. Well nuts to that, as Monty Python never said. British ministers have had to bail out Crossrail financially for the third time this year. It is costing so much more than planned--at least $3 billion more--that London mayor Sidiq Khan has been forced to make cuts in other capital projects. And, naturally, Crossrail won't launch this month. The opening has been pushed back to next fall and even that timetable looks shaky. London's media is busily writing how-it-all-went-wrong stories and apportioning blame. Still, Crossrail is a "beautiful train, lovely plumage".

Planes, Trains--and Bullets in the In-Flight Food
It's Christmas, so naturally there are lots of televised airings of Planes, Trains and Automobiles, a holiday-themed business travel movie starring Steve Martin and the late John Candy. Life on the road isn't like that, of course. It's more like this:
      British Airways is warning business class passengers that they might find bullet fragments in their meals. Honest, BA is warning about bullet fragments.
      Food at Los Angeles International Airport thankfully has no bullet fragments--at least not food in the best restaurants located in the sprawling LAX terminals.
      New York's LaGuardia Airport is getting lots of ink lately since part of its new terminal has opened. But few business travelers ever walk to LaGuardia for their flights.
      Amtrak plans to remove the iconic flipboard from Philadelphia's 30th Street Station. On the other hand, maybe the so-called Solari board won't be removed.
      A luxurious Embassy Suites opened on the lovely beachfront in St. Augustine, Florida. But lawsuits and controversies always accompany new beachfront operations these days.

Tight Connections ...
      Movie Palaces of the Past We know them well: The Chicago in the Loop. The State in Austin. The Bluebird in Denver. They're part of the vintage movie marquees that once decorated America's cityscapes.
      What to Watch at Those Palaces The greatest travel flicks of all time? Planes, Trains and Automobiles is on the list compiled by Conde Nast Traveler, of course. But where's Grosse Point Blank, which I feel is the classic tale of a stressed business traveler?
      Toque on This I'd happily recommend any story employing that ridiculous play on words, but this piece is just for us: food halls so good business travelers should ditch the sit-down meal.
      Hardscrabble and Hard-Edged Let's be honest: Eastern North Carolina is not on many business traveler's itineraries. Which may explain why a vote- and election-rigging scandal found such fertile ground in Bladen County. But don't judge the folks until you hear their stories. -- 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.