ISIS Wants Japanese Ransom, Pessimistic IMF, Kim Jong-Un V. Balloons

ISIS Wants Japanese Ransom, Pessimistic IMF, Kim Jong-Un V. Balloons

The International Monetary Fund has sharply cut its global growth forecast of just six months ago, with almost every economy except the United States expected to grow at a slower pace than previously thought, Bloomberg reports. The Washington-based lender said an economic slowdown in China, recession in Russia, and poor prospects in the eurozone and Japan will outweigh expected benefits from cheaper oil. According to IMF projections, the world economy will grow 3.5% this year and 3.7% in 2016.

  • This comes amid warnings from the United Nations that slower growth will lead to an extra 11 million people losing their jobs in the next five years. International Labour Organization chief Guy Ryder has blamed “the austerity trajectory,” especially in Europe, as a significant factor in growing unemployment and the widening gap between rich and poor. In an alarming report published yesterday, Oxfam said that the richest 1% would own more wealth than the other 99% by next year.


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In a video posted online today, Islamist terror group ISIS has threatened to execute two Japanese hostages if the government doesn’t pay $200 million within 72 hours, The Japan Times reports. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who was in Jerusalem this morning as part of a Middle East visit, demanded the hostages’ immediate release and said that “the international community will not give in to terrorism.”

An Orthodox believer takes a dip Monday into the icy waters of a pond during celebrations of the Orthodox Epiphany near Minsk, Belarus (see lead photo).

Top-selling British newspaper The Sun now has “its top on” after quietly scrapping the (in)famous Page 3 that featured topless models. It was a custom that started in 1970, shortly after Rupert Murdoch bought the tabloid. Instead, the page now features famous women in bikinis.

U.S. President Barack Obama will deliver his State of the Union address tonight to his presidency’s first Republican-controlled Congress. The address is expected to focus on the middle class and his proposal for expanded paid family leave as well as possible tax breaks for middle-income earners in a bid to raise more taxes from the wealthy. Read more from The New York Times.

As La Nacion reports, protests denouncing Argentine President Cristina Kirchner erupted all over the country yesterday after prosecutor Alberto Nisman was found dead Sunday morning. Authorities are calling the death an apparent suicide, but protestors believe he may have been murdered for accusing the president of concealing Iranian culpability for the 1994 bombing that killed 85 and injured 300 at a Jewish community center. Read more from our 4 Corners blog here.

Britain’s electronic spy agency GCHQ captured the emails of journalists at some of the world’s top media organizations, documents leaked by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden and published by The Guardian show. The documents also describe investigative journalists as being “of specific concern,” that “journalists and reporters representing all types of news media represent a potential threat to security.” The revelations are likely to increase pressure on Prime Minister David Cameron, who has been pushing for greater surveillance powers in the wake of the Paris terrorist attacks.


A group of South Korean activists led by a North Korean defector have started sending balloons with anti-Pyongyang messages across the border despite requests from South Korea not to do so and threats from North Korea, AFP reports. The militants have threatened to follow the leaflets with copies of the controversial film comedy The Interview.

Oscar-winning directors Joel and Ethan Coen will jointly head the jury at Cannes Film Festival in May. “Presiding over the jury is a special honor, since we have never heretofore been president of anything,” they said.

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The Food Truck, A Sign That The White And Wealthy Are Moving In

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.

Balboa Park Spring Fling Food Truck festival

San Diego Food Trucks via Facebook
Pascale Joassart-Marcelli

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.

Food vendor at outdoor international marketplace called Fair@44.

Fairat44 via Instagram

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?

Food vendor at outdoor international marketplace called Fair@44.

Fairat44 via Instagram

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.The Conversation


Pascale Joassart-Marcelli is a Professor of Geography and Director, Urban Studies and Food Studies Programs at San Diego State University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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