FIFTH ANNIVERSARY OF EGYPTâ€™S ARAB SPRING
Photo: Amr Sayed/APA/ZUMA
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has warned against protesters using todayâ€™s fifth anniversary of the Jan. 25 revolution to disrupt the country. Al Arabiya reports that security forces were on high alert and the streets of Cairo were mostly calm this morning, five years to the day since the uprising that overthrew the regime of then-President Hosni Mubarak began. Sisi said the revolution had â€œnoble principlesâ€ and marked a â€œnew Egypt,â€ but that it had been hijacked by â€œnarrow interests,â€ a reference to the Muslim Brotherhood and former President Mohammed Morsi. Independent Egyptian news site Mada Masr reports on how state security forces were cracking down in the days and hours ahead of the anniversary to minimize any possible uprising against the government.
â€œThey have to be serious. If they are not serious, war will continue. Up to them â€" you can lead a horse to water; you canâ€™t make it drink,â€ U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said ahead of Syrian peace talks that were supposed to begin today in Geneva. According to Reuters, the Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad said it was ready to attend, but opposition representatives said they wouldnâ€™t until bombardments and blockades end and prisoners are released. Kerry said he hoped for â€œclarityâ€ within the next two days.
- Speaking from Istanbul on Saturday after meeting with Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden said the U.S. and Turkey were prepared for a military solution against ISIS in Syria if the authorities and the opposition donâ€™t reach an agreement.
- ISIS, meanwhile, released a new video yesterday that purportedly shows old footage of nine of the 10 terrorists behind the Nov. 13 Paris attacks and renews threats against France and Britain, Le Monde reports. â€œWeâ€™ve been to your countries. We will slaughter you in your homes,â€ Abdelhamid Abaaoud, the suspected mastermind of the attacks, is quoted as saying. President François Hollande said that â€œnothing would scareâ€ France in its fight against terrorism.
Much of the East Coast is still buried by a thick layer of snow, and the cleanup could last days, with millions of Americans affected by whatâ€™s been dubbed Snowzilla (or Snowmageddon). USA Today reports that at least 30 people have died â€œin car accidents, from carbon monoxide poisoning, and from heart attacks while shoveling snow.â€ Federal government offices in Washington, D.C., will remain closed today, along with local government offices and public schools in D.C., Maryland and Virginia. A selection of timelapse videos shows the stunning accumulation during Winter Storm Jonas.
French scientists have developed a new technology to read the long hidden portions of the Marie Antoinetteâ€™s correspondence with Swedish royal Axel von Fersen, long rumored to be her lover, Le Mondeâ€™s Vahé Ter Minassian reports. â€œâ€˜I may say to you that I love you,â€™ she wrote to him. Discovered in 1907 in a coded letter, these few furtively scrawled words have been the subject of much discussion over the years. Do they confirm that the iconic queen of France, Marie Antoinette, was involved in a romantic relationship with a foreigner, and whatâ€™s more, an open opponent of the Revolution? And if so, what sort of romance? A platonic love, or one physically consummated, as emperor Napoleon Bonaparte affirmed years later in vulgar terms? A full 220 years after Marie Antoinette was killed via the guillotine, forever hushing up her secrets, technology may be providing historians a way to uncover the royal mystery.â€
Read the full article, Decoding Marie Antoinetteâ€™s Mystery Love Letters To Swedish Baron.
COLD SNAP ENGULFS EAST ASIA
While the U.S. East Coast was being blanketed by the blizzard, more than 60 people died in Eastern Asia from unusually cold weather, AP reports. In subtropical Taiwan alone, 57 people, most of them elderly, succumbed to near-freezing temperatures unseen in 16 years. Extreme weather conditions also affected China and Japan.
Chinese President Xi Jinping signed a 10-year bilateral trade agreement with Iran Saturday worth an astounding $600 billion, a move that President Hassan Rouhani hailed as â€œthe beginning of an important eraâ€ between the two countries. Rouhani will make his first visit to Europe this week as he seeks to rebuild economic ties after international sanctions that have bruised Iranâ€™s economy were lifted. His shopping list is said to include 114 Airbus planes.
BLOOMBERG EYES WHITE HOUSE RACE
Billionaire and former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg is reportedly considering a presidential run on a third-party ticket. Insiders told The New York Times he was â€œgalled by Donald J. Trumpâ€™s dominance of the Republican field, and troubled by Hillary Clintonâ€™s stumbles and the rise of Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont on the Democratic side.â€ The 73-year-old would apparently be prepared to spend $1 billion of his own money to run.
ON THIS DAY
Find out the host of the first Winter Olympic Games in today's shot of history.
PROTESTS POSTPONE HAITI ELECTIONS
Haitiâ€™s presidential election, planned for yesterday, was postponed indefinitely amid violent anti-government protests and following the oppositionâ€™s Jude Celestin refusal to participate in what he called a fraudulent vote, Haiti Libre reports. Outgoing president Michel Martelly, whoâ€™s not running for reelection, is due to leave office Feb. 7.
BRITISH EXPLORER DIES CROSSING ANTARCTICA
Henry Worsley, a 55-year-old British explorer trying the first unaccompanied crossing of Antarctica, died of complete organ failure within a week of reaching his goal, his wife said today. Read more from the BBC.
MY GRAND-PÈREâ€™S WORLD
LANDSLIDE VICTORY FOR PORTUGALâ€™S TOP JOB
Center-right candidate Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa won yesterdayâ€™s Portuguese presidential election with 52% in the first round, a resounding victory otherwise marked by a low turnout of just 48.8%. Learn more about the new leader and see how the press covered the â€œcrowningâ€ moment in our Extra! feature.
EXPLORE MONT BLANC
Thanks to Google, itâ€™s never been easier to explore Mont Blanc.
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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