BOKO HARAM TORCHES VILLAGE
Islamist terrorists from Boko Haram razed a small village in northwestern Nigeria, bombing and setting fire to huts in a horrific attack that killed at least 86 people, officials say. A survivor hidden in a tree told AP journalists he could hear children screaming as they burned to death. The six-year Islamic uprising has killed about 20,000 people and driven 2.5 million from their homes. See todayâ€™s front page of Nigerian newspaper Daily Trust here.
CRUCIAL IOWA CAUCUS TODAY
All-important Iowa voters caucus today in the first presidential primary, a crucial and unique early contest that The New York Times calls â€œThe Cornfield Crucible.â€ (Hereâ€™s how it works.) The latest polls suggest that the respective frontrunners Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton both have narrow leads over their closest rivals in this overwhelmingly white and mostly rural state.
- Todayâ€™s caucuses follow a series of financial disclosure reports. Among the notable figures: Donald Trump loaned his campaign nearly $11 million ($325,700 of which was spent on his signature red hats). Billionaire George Soros spent $7 million to support Hillary Clinton. And Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders raised $20 million in January, with an average donation of $27.
â€œI urge all parties to put the people of Syria at the heart of their discussions, and above partisan interests,â€ UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said yesterday, as the Saudi-backed opposition group Higher Negotiation Committee met with a UN mediator for the first time to find a potential way out of the Syrian crisis. The UN is hoping to create a six-month negotiation process toward a broad ceasefire agreement and a political transition, Reuters reports.
- While representatives were gathered in Geneva, ISIS bombers killed at least 71 people and wounded at least 100 more in an attack on a southern Damascus Shia shrine.
UK SCIENTISTS CAN MODIFY EMBRYOS
Scientists in Britain have received the go-ahead to modify human embryos, an ethically controversial practice that researchers say could help them understand â€œthe crucial process of embryo developmentâ€ and the â€œcauses of infertility, miscarriage and some genetic diseases,â€ The Daily Telegraph reports. The experiments on â€œleftover embryos from IVF clinicsâ€ will take place at a London institute.
More than 10,000 unaccompanied migrant children have disappeared after reaching Europe over the past two years, the EUâ€™s police agency Europol said yesterday, confirming a report published in The Observer. According to the newspaper, Europol has evidence that at least some of these children have been sexually exploited, raising fears that they are targets of criminal gangs. Save the Children estimates that 26,000 unaccompanied children entered Europe last year.
- Chinese artist Ai Weiwei posed for a series of photographs to recreate the â€œhauntingâ€ image of Alan Kurdi, the 3-year-old Syrian child whose body washed up on a Turkish beach in September. Read more from The Washington Post.
A European program has been researching how the pharmaceutical industry could use the peptides found in venomous creatures for new therapeutic medicines, Vahé Ter Minassian reports for Le Monde. â€œOf course, because of the high production costs, the complexity of the manufacturing processes and the immune problems that they pose, peptide drugs are still rare on the market. In 2010, there were barely 60, and only five of them came from animals. But a researcher explains that using biotechnologies â€˜could change the situation.â€™ Especially when it seems worthwhile. Extracted from the saliva of a Mexican lizard called the Gila monster, Byetta is prescribed to treat type 2 diabetes and is among the pharmaceutical industry's best sellers, with sales of more than $1 billion.â€
Read the full article, Venom To Cure Disease, On The Frontier Of Modern Snake Medicine.
ATTEMPTED RESCUE FOR ADRIFT CARGO SHIP
Photo: Gcaptain expand=1]
A French rescue team has launched a final attempt to save a listing cargo ship whose 22-member crew was evacuated last week. Loaded with 300 tons of fuel, the ship has been unmanned and adrift for five days, as severe weather conditions have made it impossible to tow the 538-foot Modern Express, Le Parisien reports. If the rescue attempt fails, the ship is expected to hit the French coast between tonight and tomorrow morning, though the potential ecological impact is believed to be limited.
CHINA FACTORY ACTIVITY SHRINKING
Chinaâ€™s manufacturing sector shrank at its fastest pace since 2012, another sign that the worldâ€™s second-largest economy is slowing. The news suggests that Chinese demand for oil will decrease, adding more pressure on a market thatâ€™s already burdened by large surpluses. Oil prices and Asian shares tumbled after the survey was published.
ON THIS DAY
A couple of extremes for todayâ€™s shot of history: the end of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeiniâ€™s exile from Iran and Janet Jacksonâ€™s infamous Super Bowl wardrobe malfunction.
FRANCE TO END C.A.R. OPERATION IN 2016
France is planning to end its military operation in the Central African Republic this year, Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told Le Figaro yesterday. The operation was launched in December 2013 after an Islamist group overthrew president François Bozizé. The political transition is expected to end this year with a presidential and legislative elections next month.
MY GRAND-PÈREâ€™S WORLD
FAREWELL BENOIT VIOLIER
Benoit Violier, a 44-year-old Swiss chef whose restaurant was recently named the best in the world, has been found dead, hours before he was due to attend the unveiling of the new Michelin guide in Paris. Police believe he took his own life.
NOBEL PEACE PRIZE FOR GREECE?
Should the residents of Greeceâ€™s islands in the Aegean Sea receive the next Nobel Peace Prize for their â€œChrist-like behaviorâ€ towards Syrian refugees? More than 630,000 people think so. See the petition here.
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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