SPOTLIGHT: LOST IN BRAZIL, DILMA CAN WAIT
Brazil has won its first gold medal in Rio (courtesy of judoka Rafaela Silva), and other national athletes â€" especially soccer players after the 2014 World Cup fiasco â€" will obviously be looking to add to that tally. But one area where the hosts certainly won't be claiming any prizes is organization. Sure, after months of doomsday warnings, the Olympic constructions were ultimately completed in time, but a scathing report in Folha de S. Paulo points its finger at a surprising failure: the Olympic volunteers.
The São Paulo daily chronicled the abysmal level of preparation, with some of volunteers incapable of even helping fellow Brazilians find their way around Rio de Janeiro. When asked about the location of the badminton events, one volunteer replied, "I think it's in Deodoro. Nobody's ever asked me that. But look, don't go there. If I'm wrong, you'll end up being angry."
Anecdotes like this can be shrugged off, especially in the face of far more dire pre-Games warnings about security and Zika. But there's also a less amusing side to it: In many ways, this level of administrative amateurism is symptomatic of Brazil's political woes, the ugly flipside of locals loveable just-go-with-the-flow demeanor. With the latest Senate vote moving President Dilma Rousseff closer to impeachment, most will now set the drama aside as the Games continue for the next 10 days. In the meantime, Brazilians will be rooting for a few more golds â€" if they can just find their way to the stadium.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR TODAY
- General elections are held in Zambia.
- Hillary Clinton lays out economic plans in Detroit speech.
- Peak night for the Perseids meteor shower. Make a wish!
â€œWe do not need tears or sympathy or even prayers: We desperately need a zone free from bombing,â€ a group of 15 doctors, part of the last 35 remaining in the Syrian city of Aleppo, wrote in an open letter to U.S. President Barack Obama. This comes as the Russian defense ministry announced yesterday daily three-hour ceasefires in the war-torn city to allow humanitarian aid to reach residents. The United Nations however said this was far from being long enough for convoys to help trapped civilians.
LIBYAN FORCES CAPTURE MAJOR ISIS BUILDING
Libyan pro-government forces have claimed they captured from ISIS the Ouagadougou Conference Center, which served as the terrorist organizationâ€™s command center in the key city of Sirte, Libya Herald reports. If confirmed, the loss of the center would mark a major setback for the jihadist group.
PUTIN ACCUSES UKRAINE OF CRIMEA â€œINCURSIONâ€
Vladimir Putin has accused Ukraine of plotting terrorist attacks in Crimea to destabilize the region and create a new conflict, Russian daily Kommersant reports. The Russian president said yesterday that two Russian servicemen had been killed during the attempted arrest of a Ukrainian spy in Crimea. Kiev has dismissed these claims as Russian provocation made to escalate towards a full-blown war.
â€" ON THIS DAY
â€œThe Rockâ€ welcomed its first prisoners 82 years ago â€¦ That, and more, in your 57-second shot of History.
CANADA POLICE KILL TERROR SUSPECT
Police in Canada shot dead a 24-year-old terror suspect in an operation carried out yesterday in the province of Ontario, the National Post reports. The man killed has been named as Aaron Driver, who was arrested last year for supporting ISIS on social media and could have been planning to carry out a suicide bombing in public area, according to a statement by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
PKK BLASTS KILL 8 IN TURKEY
Twin bomb blasts attributed to the Kurdish PKK group killed at least eight people, including police officers, last night in southeastern Turkey, Hürriyet reports. The explosion of a car bomb killed five people in Diyarbakir while, almost simultaneously, another blast killed three in Kiziltepe.
Wildfires carried by high winds have burned up to 33 square kilometers of garrigue and pine woods near the southeastern France city of Marseille by this morning. Three people have been injured and hundreds have been evacuated, Le Monde reports.
The recent visit by Pope Francis during World Youth Day highlighted how little Polish leaders care about the emergency of Europe's refugee crisis. For Polish daily Gazeta Wyborcza, Jakub Halcewicz writes: â€œDuring his first speech at Wawel Castle in Kraków, Francis said the world needs â€˜a spirit of readiness to welcome those fleeing from wars and hunger, and solidarity with those deprived of their fundamental rights, including the right to profess oneâ€™s faith in freedom and safety.â€™
Now let's go back to reality. Our reality. Are we Poles and the Polish political elite ready to accept those people fleeing from wars and hunger? We are one of the biggest European Union countries â€" for many, a symbol of freedom and democracy regained, belonging to the happy and wealthy part of the world. Are we aware of the responsibility that this entails? Unfortunately, it's highly doubtful.â€
Read the full article, Refugees, The Moral Failure Of Polandâ€™s Leaders.
â€" MY GRAND-PEREâ€™S WORLD
Where Weavers Nest â€" Saint-André, 2000
ICELANDâ€™S TOURISM SURGE
This year, Iceland is expecting about 1.7 million tourists, more than the 1.28 million who visited the island last year. Thatâ€™s more than five times the countryâ€™s own population, according to Le Monde. The problem is Iceland wasnâ€™t ready for this surge in tourism: Reykjavikâ€™s international airport is too small, the roads are jammed and there arenâ€™t enough hotels.
MORE STORIES, EXCLUSIVELY IN ENGLISH BY WORLDCRUNCH
- The Olympics May Just Be The Only Thing That Works In Brazil â€" Folha de S. Paulo
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- From The Nazis To Nice, Teasing Out The Logic Of Evil â€" Süddeutsche Zeitung
HOOKING UP AGAIN
The cast of Hook got together again as Steven Spielberg's cult movie turns 25 this year. The â€œLost Boysâ€ also paid tribute to Robin Williams, who played Peter Pan, as today marks the second anniversary of the actorâ€™s death.
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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