REFUGEES SQUARE OFF WITH HUNGARIAN POLICE
A standoff between refugees, many of them from war-torn Syria, and Hungarian police in the town of Bickse has entered its second day, with Die Welt reporting that some 500 people spent the night in the train station and were refusing to eat or drink until being allowed to travel to Germany. They were allowed on the trains yesterday at a Budapest station, but the trains only took them as far as Bickse, located about 40 kilometers from the Hungarian capital. The Guardian describes it as an apparent â€œtrickâ€ to take them to a refugee camp.
- Hungarian lawmakers are expected to vote today on whether to send 3,500 military to the border with Serbia, a non-EU country that sits outside of the Schengen Area, in a bid to curb the flow of refugees from the Middle East.
- The United Nationsâ€™ High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres, meanwhile, urged EU states to come up with a relocation plan for 200,000 refugees, more than yesterdayâ€™s proposal by European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker to take 120,000.
- In an apparent policy shift, British Prime Minister David Cameron yesterday pledged to take more Syrian refugees. Read more from The Independent.
- The father of Aylan, the little Syrian boy who drowned on his way to Greece, has returned to the city of Kobani to bury the bodies of his two sons and wife, who all died after their boat capsized.
â€œIf you want to stop the deaths, if you want to stop the drownings, you have got to stop the boats,â€ Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott told ABC Radio in reaction to the â€œsad and poignantâ€ image of the 3-year-old Syrian boy dead on a beach. â€œAnd thankfully, weâ€™ve stopped that in Australia because we've stopped the illegal boats, weâ€™ve said to the people smugglers, "your trade has closed down.â€™â€ But a New York Times takedown of Australiaâ€™s â€œruthlessly effectiveâ€ and â€œbrutal treatment of migrantsâ€ says it would be â€œunconscionableâ€ for European leaders to follow its example.
ISIS DESTROYS ANCIENT TOMBS
After targeting both the living and the ruins of a distant, glorious past in the ancient city of Palmyra, Syria, ISIS has added tombs to its hit list. According to Syriaâ€™s antiquities chief, the terrorist group has destroyed three tower tombs, â€œthe best preserved and most beautiful,â€ he said. The tombs were built in the 1st century and were on UNESCOâ€™s world heritage list. Read more from AFP.
French farmers angry at plunging food prices and soaring costs blocked the streets of Paris with more than 1,500 tractors yesterday.
GUATEMALAN PRESIDENT JAILED
Guatemalan President Otto Pérez Molina was taken to a military jail yesterday, hours after he resigned as president, while a judge decides whether to charge him in a massive corruption scandal. Protesters were waiting for him, shouting â€œOtto, thief, go to jail!â€ as his car arrived at the prison facility, newspaper Prensa Libre reports. Vice President Alejandro Maldonado was sworn in as interim president ahead of a planned presidential election on Sunday. Read more in our Extra! feature.
ON THIS DAY
Google, which is used for a mind-bending 3.5 billion daily searches, was founded 17 years ago today. Time for your 57-second shot of history.
OIL-RICH GULF RESISTS CLIMATE AGREEMENT
Delegates are meeting in Bonn, Germany, today for the last day of week-long negotiations aimed at forging a draft ahead of a highly anticipated climate change conference in Paris at the end of the year. But according to Deutsche Welle, a group of oil-producing Gulf countries led by Saudi Arabia is resisting agreements to cut carbon emissions. Several experts cite many reasons for that positioning, including the importance of oil in Saudi Arabiaâ€™s geopolitical influence, but the issue was perhaps best summed up by the director of Climate Action Network. â€œI donâ€™t think the Saudi royals think about climate change or take the issue seriously at all,â€ he said.
Yesterdayâ€™s military parade in Beijing to mark the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II saw China flex its muscles. Some 12,000 troops marched in the capital as officials announced it would procure several brand new anti-ship missiles. Among these is the DF-26 missile, capable of targeting â€œmedium-sized shipsâ€ up to 4,000 kilometers away, meaning that U.S. ships in the Pacific would be â€œvulnerable,â€ the Financial Times writes. In an editorial, the newspaper says that the parade and the display of Chinaâ€™s military might, coming three weeks before President Xi Jinpingâ€™s U.S. visit and amid escalating tensions between the worldâ€™s two largest economies, sends an â€œunmistakable message.â€
NSA-style monitoring of our ever-more digital lives is beyond even George Orwellâ€™s disturbing vision. Itâ€™s also less effective in tracking the true enemies of the state, Jacques Henno writes in an essay for Les Echos. â€œSeventy years after it was published, this extraordinary futuristic novel has become the emblem of ever-widening surveillance measures, increasingly adopted by Western countries after each new Islamist terrorist attack,â€ he writes. â€œBut the worst part of it all is that we, the everyday users, are almost passive accomplices in this, since weâ€™re feeding part of these files ourselves with the way we rely daily on digital devices and services.â€
Read the full article, How 2015 Mass Surveillance Compares To Orwellâ€™s 1984 Big Brother.
MY GRAND-PÈREâ€™S WORLD
DRONE CRASHES U.S. OPEN
Drones are everywhere. One was even hovering above the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center yesterday. But the sight of the yellow ball seems to have disturbed the device, which crashed into the stands, interrupting a U.S. Open match. Game, set, drone.
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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