SPOTLIGHT: RIO IN TROUBLE, ONE WEEK FROM OLYMPICS
Just seven days from the opening of the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil is still reeling from a succession of emergencies that tarnish the countryâ€™s image as it prepares to play host to the worldâ€™s top athletes. A long-running political and economic crisis continues unabated, while preparations in Rio are beset with logistical and infrastructural problems.
As the Games near, Brazilâ€™s government hoped to draw attention away from the ongoing impeachment of suspended President Dilma Rousseff, but former President Lula da Silva put the countryâ€™s political woes back in the spotlight this week. Lula appealed to the UN Commission on Human Rights for protection against a magistrate prosecuting the bribery scandal shaking Brazilâ€™s establishment, accusing him of â€œpersecution.â€
Meanwhile, outside the halls of power, the country is breathing in bad news from Guanabara Bay, which is slated to host swimming and sailing events: The waters of Rioâ€™s bay remain so polluted they could pose a health risk to competitors, while other multimillion infrastructure projects rush to completion. There are also â€" inevitably perhaps â€" security concerns. Authorities arrested several terror suspects last week, even as concerns over drug trafficking and violent crime remain high. City police also seized narcotics branded with fake Olympics-themed packaging.
Even the Olympic torch relay, meant as a symbol of national and global unity, was interrupted by a teachersâ€™ strike that caused the torchâ€™s flame to extinguish. After a trying year, Brazilians and visitors alike will hope the opening of the Games can provide a much-needed break from the string of bad news. It will be quite a test of the power of the Olympic spirit.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR TODAY
- EU statistics agency Eurostat to release its monthly report on the Eurozone economy.
- Pope Francis visits the Auschwitz and Birkenau concentration camps.
- Oh, and, by the way, the world is supposed to end today, according to several theories that posit a â€œpolar flipâ€ will destroy the Earth on July 29, 2016.
CLINTON MAKES HISTORY
â€œWhen there are no ceilings, the skyâ€™s the limit,â€ said Hillary Clinton in her acceptance speech on the last night of the 2016 Democratic National Convention, becoming the first-ever female nominee from a major party.
â€" MY GRAND-PEREâ€™S WORLD
The End Of The Beguines â€" Bruges, 1964
SYRIAN AL-QAEDA BRANCH ANNOUNCES SPLIT
The al-Nusra front, a Syrian jihadist group affiliated with al-Qaeda, announced its split from the global terror organization in an effort to avoid being targeted by U.S. and coalition airstrikes. Leader Abu Muhammad al-Julani announced the groupâ€™s rebranding as â€œJabhat Fateh al-Shamâ€, or the Front for the Conquest of Syria, but U.S. authorities declared they would continue seeking to destroy the group.
INDONESIA CARRIES OUT CONTROVERSIAL EXECUTIONS
Indonesia executed four drug convicts early Friday morning, ignoring pleas for clemency from the European Union and other countries. According to Kompas, ten other prisoners on death row were spared, but their families and lawyers havenâ€™t been notified when or whether they will face execution.
LATEST ATTEMPT TO FORM GOVERNMENT IN SPAIN
Acting Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy received a mandate from King Felipe VI to form a government, setting in motion the latest round of consultations since the countryâ€™s second consecutive election produced a hung parliament last month. El País reports that Rajoy, whose center-right Popular Party won the most seats in June, will hold talks with the centrist Citizens party and the opposition Socialists.
â€" ON THIS DAY
Houston, we have a birthday â€¦ That, and more, in todayâ€™s 57-second shot of History.
NEW PERUVIAN PRESIDENT SWORN IN
Former Prime Minister and World Bank official Pedro Pablo Kuczynski was sworn in as Peruâ€™s newest president. In yesterdayâ€™s inaugural address, he vowed to fight corruption in his five-year term.
MERKEL RULES OUT MIGRANT POLICY REVERSAL
â€œWe can do this,â€ said German Chancellor Angela Merkel at a scheduled summer press conference yesterday, asserting that her government will continue its â€œwelcome policyâ€ towards refugees fleeing war after a string of terror attacks in her country. She resisted increasing calls from politicians within and outside her party to halt immigration and focus on anti-terror policies. Read more from Deutsche Welle.
Nice, Turkey, Wurzburg, Ansbach. The escalating violence of the last few days raise the pressure on the German Chancellor, whose refugee policy is again in the spotlight. For German daily Süddeutsche Zeitung, Robert Roßmann writes that the political repercussions could strike where it matters to her most: â€œThe violent attacks do not seem to have a common thread linking them directly. But what all of these attacks do have in common is their outcome, namely the spreading of fear that undermines the standing of the government.
But beyond the general anxiety, Merkel risks being branded as the person responsible for this summer of terror, because of her refugee policies. It is certainly true that not all perpetrators were refugees, and in any case were in Germany without having benefitted from Merkelâ€™s refugee policies. And it is also true that several of these attacks were not even necessarily linked to Islamic radicalism. But the electorate tends to not make these finer points of distinction.â€
Read the full article, Will Germans Hold Merkel Responsible For Terror Spree?
6 TRILLION YEN
The Bank of Japan announced an expansion of its quantitative easing program to 6 trillion yen ($58.1 billion), up from a current purchase level of 3.3 trillion yen ($32 billion). The Japan Times reports that the Japanese central bank cited persistent deflation and potential negative impacts of the UKâ€™s vote to leave the EU as reasons for renewed monetary stimulus.
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FINLANDâ€™S SPECIAL BIRTHDAY GIFT
Finland will celebrate the centenary of its independence next year, and Norway is considering an unusual birthday gift for its Nordic neighbor: an entire mountain. The two countries share the 1,364-meter-tall mountain of Halti but the peakâ€™s summit is located in Norway, and local Norwegian politicians enthusiastically support shifting the border so that Halti can become the highest point in Finland.
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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