SPOTLIGHT: DEATH IN IRAQ
As the attacks in Paris and Brussels have shown, ISIS is a very real threat to daily life in the West. But as unacceptable as the toll paid by innocent European victims may be, itâ€™s always worth remembering who bears the brunt of Islamic terrorism: innocent Muslims. The latest case is in Iraq, where at least 93 people were killed in a Shia neighborhood of Baghdad yesterday, the deadliest attack of the year so far in the country.
Three more people were killed and 10 were wounded today in two suicide explosions at a police station in western Baghdad. Quoted in a report published today in Le Monde, one citizen of the capital describes the latest deadly wave of attacks as â€œBaghdad routine,â€ amid regular power cuts and never-ending political crises.
ISIS may have lost crucial battles and important parts of territory, but its constant attacks, targeting mostly Shia Muslim communities, are a threat to Iraqi societyâ€™s very existence, notes Middle East scholar Ranj Alaaldin, in a piece today in The Guardian. â€œRehabilitating Iraqâ€™s cities and people will prove to be far more costly and challenging than defeating ISIS itself,â€ he writes. That wars which are won, and missions accomplished, can be undone just as quickly, is a lesson that Iraq knows all too well.
SENATE SUSPENDS DILMA, IMPEACHMENT PROCEEDS
Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff has been officially suspended from office after a 20-hour Senate session that saw 55 vote in favor of her being tried and 22 against. Folha de S. Paulo reports that Vice President Michel Temer, who himself is also facing potential impeachment proceedings, will take over during Dilmaâ€™s impeachment trial by the Senate, which can last up to 180 days and may well end up in her being definitively removed from office. Brazil-based U.S. journalist Glenn Greenwald described Temer as an â€œunelectable, corrupt neoliberal.â€
WHAT TO LOOK FOR TODAY
- Britain holds anti-corruption summit, without Panama, FIFA or British Virgin Islands.
- The United States switches on a $800 million European missile shield in Romania.
â€" ON THIS DAY
A massive earthquake, Alcoholics Anonymous and Tony Hawk all feature in your 57-second shot of history.
FRENCH GOVERNMENT FACES NO-CONFIDENCE VOTE
Franceâ€™s Socialist government will face later today a vote of no-confidence that was brought about by its forcing through of a controversial labor reform without a parliamentary vote. Though the government will likely survive the no-confidence vote, the political crisis is likely to extend the damage to President François Hollande, PM Manuel Valls and the ruling Socialist Party, RFI notes. Strikes and demonstrations are also planned for today, and a rail union is calling on workers to go on strike every Wednesday and Thursday for the coming weeks.
French police are reportedly investigating a suspicious $1.5 million payment made by the Tokyo 2020 Olympic bid, or people â€œacting on their behalf,â€ during Japanâ€™s successful candidacy to hold the event, The Guardian reports. Tokyo Olympic organizers denied any knowledge of such payment.
Writing in Colombian newspaper El Espectador, journalist Jesus Mesa tells the gripping story of how one illiterate Peruvian farmer faced down a U.S.-based mining firm to save her home and a local lake. â€œMáxima Acuña didn't set out to be a symbol of resistance. Nor did she seek the kind of international recognition that comes with winning a Goldman Environmental Prize, as she did last week. All she wanted to do was save her home and stop a pair of mining firms from turning her local lake into a toxic dump.
"I am poor and illiterate, but I know our lake and mountains are our real treasure. And I'll fight so that the Conga project doesn't destroy them," says Acuña, a Peruvian subsistence farmer who has engaged in a David vs. Goliath struggle against the Colorado-based Newport Mining Corporation and its Peruvian partner, Buenaventura.â€
Read the full article: Lady Of The Blue Lake, Peruâ€™s Unlikely Environmental Hero.
DEBRIS â€œALMOST CERTAINLYâ€ FROM MH370
Two pieces of debris, discovered recently in South Africa and Mauritius, â€œalmost certainlyâ€ belong to the Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 that mysteriously went missing on March 8, 2015, Malaysian Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai told reporters.
â€œThe West in modern times has risen to the top and created a brilliant civilisation, but their media is full of reckless "gossip fiends' who bare their fangs and brandish their claws and are very narcissistic, retaining the bad manners of "barbarians'.â€ Thatâ€™s how the Chinese Communist Partyâ€™s mouthpiece Global Times responded to media coverage of Queen Elizabethâ€™s gaffe about â€œvery rudeâ€ Chinese. More in English from AFP.
â€" MORE STORIES, EXCLUSIVELY IN ENGLISH BY WORLDCRUNCH
- When Avant-Garde Photography Enters Kyotoâ€™s Sacred Temples â€" Le Monde
- Erdoganâ€™s Unique Recipe Of Nearly Absolute Power â€" Cumhuriyet
- Scared And Jobless, Afghan Youth Turn To Human Smugglers â€" PortalKBR
AN INDIAN PRAYER FOR TRUMP
An anti-Islam group in India held special prayers yesterday in support of Donald Trump, â€œthe only savior of mankindâ€ against the rise of Islamic militancy.
In San Diego, California, a researcher tracked how in the city's low-income neighborhoods that have traditionally lacked dining options, when interesting eateries arrive the gentrification of white, affluent and college-educated people has begun.
SAN DIEGO — Everybody, it seems, welcomes the arrival of new restaurants, cafés, food trucks and farmers markets.
What could be the downside of fresh veggies, homemade empanadas and a pop-up restaurant specializing in banh mis?
But when they appear in unexpected places – think inner-city areas populated by immigrants – they're often the first salvo in a broader effort to rebrand and remake the community. As a result, these neighborhoods can quickly become unaffordable and unrecognizable to longtime residents.
An appetite for gentrification
I live in San Diego, where I teach courses on urban and food geographies and conduct research on the relationship between food and ethnicity in urban contexts.
In recent years, I started to notice a pattern playing out in the city's low-income neighborhoods that have traditionally lacked food options. More ethnic restaurants, street vendors, community gardens and farmers markets were cropping up. These, in turn, spurred growing numbers of white, affluent and college-educated people to venture into areas they had long avoided.
This observation inspired me to write a book, titled The $16 Taco, about how food – including what's seen as "ethnic," "authentic" or "alternative" – often serves as a spearhead for gentrification.
Take City Heights, a large multi-ethnic San Diego neighborhood where successive waves of refugees from places as far away as Vietnam and Somalia have resettled. In 2016, a dusty vacant lot on the busiest boulevard was converted into an outdoor international marketplace called Fair@44. There, food vendors gather in semi-permanent stalls to sell pupusas, lechon (roasted pig), single-sourced cold-brewed coffee, cupcakes and tamarind raspado (crushed ice) to neighborhood residents, along with tourists and visitors from other parts of the city.
Informal street vendors are casualties.
A public-private partnership called the City Heights Community Development Corporation, together with several nonprofits, launched the initiative to increase "access to healthy and culturally appropriate food" and serve as "a business incubator for local micro-entrepreneurs," including immigrants and refugees who live in the neighborhood.
On paper, this all sounds great.
But just a few blocks outside the gates, informal street vendors – who have long sold goods such as fruit, tamales and ice cream to residents who can't easily access supermarkets – now face heightened harassment. They've become causalities in a citywide crackdown on sidewalk vending spurred by complaints from business owners and residents in more affluent areas.
This isn't just happening in San Diego. The same tensions have been playing out in rapidly gentrifying areas like Los Angeles' Boyle Heights neighborhood, Chicago's Pilsen neighborhood, New York's Queens borough and East Austin, Texas.
In all of these places, because "ethnic," "authentic" and "exotic" foods are seen as cultural assets, they've become magnets for development.
A call for food justice
Cities and neighborhoods have long sought to attract educated and affluent residents – people whom sociologist Richard Florida dubbed "the creative class." The thinking goes that these newcomers will spend their dollars and presumably contribute to economic growth and job creation.
Food, it seems, has become the perfect lure.
It's uncontroversial and has broad appeal. It taps into the American Dream and appeals to the multicultural values of many educated, wealthy foodies. Small food businesses, with their relatively low cost of entry, have been a cornerstone of ethnic entrepreneurship in American cities. And initiatives like farmers markets and street fairs don't require much in the way of public investment; instead, they rely on entrepreneurs and community-based organizations to do the heavy lifting.
In City Heights, the Community Development Corporation hosted its first annual City Heights Street Food Festival in 2019 to "get people together around table and food stalls to celebrate another year of community building." Other recent events have included African Restaurant Week, Dia de Los Muertos, New Year Lunar Festival, Soul Food Fest and Brazilian Carnival, all of which rely on food and drink to attract visitors and support local businesses.
Meanwhile, initiatives such as the New Roots Community Farm and the City Heights Farmers' Market have been launched by nonprofits with philanthropic support in the name of "food justice," with the goal of reducing racial disparities in access to healthy food and empowering residents – projects that are particularly appealing to highly educated people who value diversity and democracy.
Upending an existing foodscape
In media coverage of changing foodscapes in low-income neighborhoods like City Heights, you'll rarely find any complaints.
San Diego Magazine's neighborhood guide for City Heights, for example, emphasizes its "claim to authentic international eats, along with live music venues, craft beer, coffee, and outdoor fun." It recommends several ethnic restaurants and warns readers not to be fooled by appearances.
Longtime residents find themselves forced to compete against the "urban food machine"
But that doesn't mean objections don't exist.
Many longtime residents and small-business owners – mostly people of color and immigrants – have, for decades, lived, worked and struggled to feed their families in these neighborhoods. To do so, they've run convenience stores, opened ethnic restaurants, sold food in parks and alleys and created spaces to grow their own food.
All represent strategies to meet community needs in a place mostly ignored by mainstream retailers.
So what happens when new competitors come to town?
Starting at a disadvantage
As I document in my book, these ethnic food businesses, because of a lack of financial and technical support, often struggle to compete with new enterprises that feature fresh façades, celebrity chefs, flashy marketing, bogus claims of authenticity and disproportionate media attention. Furthermore, following the arrival of more-affluent residents, existing ones find it increasingly difficult to stay.
My analysis of real estate ads for properties listed in City Heights and other gentrifying San Diego neighborhoods found that access to restaurants, cafés, farmers markets and outdoor dining is a common selling point. The listings I studied from 2019 often enticed potential buyers with lines like "shop at the local farmers' market," "join food truck festivals" and "participate in community food drives!"
San Diego Magazine's home buyer guide for the same year identified City Heights as an "up-and-coming neighborhood," attributing its appeal to its diverse population and eclectic "culinary landscape," including several restaurants and Fair@44.
When I see that City Heights' home prices rose 58% over the past three years, I'm not surprised.
Going up against the urban food machine
Longtime residents find themselves forced to compete against what I call the "urban food machine," a play on sociologist Harvey Molotch's "urban growth machine" – a term he coined more than 50 years ago to explain how cities were being shaped by a loose coalition of powerful elites who sought to profit off urban growth.
I argue that investors and developers use food as a tool for achieving the same ends.
When their work is done, what's left is a rather insipid and tasteless neighborhood, where foodscapes become more of a marketable mishmash of cultures than an ethnic enclave that's evolved organically to meet the needs of residents. The distinctions of time and place start to blur: An "ethnic food district" in San Diego looks no different than one in Chicago or Austin.
Meanwhile, the routines and rhythms of everyday life have changed so much that longtime residents no longer feel like they belong. Their stories and culture reduced to a selling point, they're forced to either recede to the shadows or leave altogether.
It's hard to see how that's a form of inclusion or empowerment.
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