NEW MOVES ON SYRIAN WAR CHESSBOARD
The diplomatic deadlock over how to end the bloody civil war in Syria is growing deeper by the hour. The upper house of the Russian Parliament has voted unanimously in favor of allowing the use of Russian troops in Syria, paving the way for the Russian air force to carry out airstrikes against ISIS, in support of Syrian troops, Tass reports. According to international law, such a move can be authorized either by a United Nations Security Council vote or following a request from the countryâ€™s authorities. After the vote, the Kremlinâ€™s chief of staff Sergey Ivanov announced that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad â€œhas addressed the leadership of our country with a request of military assistance.â€
- Details about Franceâ€™s first airstrikes in Syria have been published by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. According to their report, the destruction of an ISIS training camp in Deir ez-Zor killed 30 fighters, including 12 â€œchildren soldiers.â€ Read more from French news agency AFP.
- French prosecutors have launched a preliminary probe into Syrian President Assad and alleged crimes against humanity committed by the Syrian government between 2011 and 2013. AFP cites official diplomatic sources as saying the investigation focuses on a series of infamous pictures taken by a former Syrian army photographer who called himself Caesar.
- Saudi Arabiaâ€™s Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir told reporters at the UN General Assembly that â€œthere is no future for Assad in Syria,â€ and said that if thereâ€™s no transition of power, â€œthe other option is a military option, which also would end with the removal of Bashar al-Assad from power.â€ Read more from The Guardian.
- The threat of ISIS poses a question that the West may not be prepared to face. Read French philosopher Roger-Pol Droit in Les Echos.
PALESTINIAN FLAG TO BE RAISED AT UN
The Palestinian flag will be raised for the first time at the UN headquarter later today, after leader Mahmoud Abbasâ€™ speech at the UN General Assembly. â€œThe sense of pride among the Palestinian people was overwhelming the day the world voted in favour of this landmark initiative,â€ Abbas wrote in the Huffington Post. â€œThe U.N. must give my people more than hope.â€
IRAN SANCTIONS: ALREADY OVER?
Though the recent agreement over Iranâ€™s nuclear program is not yet a done deal, the Iranian Transportation Minister says â€œsanctions via the sea are effectively over,â€ Tehran daily Shargh reports.
ON THIS DAY
A famous castaway, an Italian actress, a rebel icon â€¦ All in your 57-second shot of history.
â€œCan you hear me now?,â€ whistleblower Edward Snowden wrote in his first tweet yesterday after joining the platform. Snowden has so far only been following one other Twitter account: the NSAâ€™s.
BATTLE FOR KUNDUZ RAGES ON
Photo: Peter Bauza/ZUMA
Crime is on the rise in Brazil and statistics for last year show that a murder took place every half-hour on average in the countryâ€™s regional capitals. The report, published by NGO Forum on Public Safety and commented by Folha de S. Paulo, shows that the Northeast Region (Nordeste) is the most dangerous. The city of Fortaleza tops the list with 77.3 killings per 100,000 inhabitants. São Paulo, one of the worldâ€™s most populous cities, has the lowest rate, with 11.4 killed for every 100,000 inhabitants.
Writing for Kommersant, Vladimir Solovev reports on the recent protests that have driven tens of thousands in the streets of Chisinau, the capital of Moldova, a country where politicians have typically found it easier to fight among themselves than work on the important issues: â€œThe reasons driving people to protest are familiar: corruption, consumer price increases, electoral fraud and government employees who break the law. The classic cake has its own, particular icing: Last year around 1 billion euros disappeared from three major Moldovan banks. For a small, poor country like Moldova, thatâ€™s a huge amount of money.â€
Read the full article, The Limits Of Anti-Corruption Protests In Moldova.
VW ADDS BLACKMAIL TO DIESELGATE
German car manufacturer Volkswagen, via media agency MediaCom, has allegedly blackmailed French national and regional newspapers and magazines to stop them from publishing any content related to the ongoing VW scandal. The claims, published in satirical paper Le Canard Enchaîné alongside an email sent to editors, show that the latter were threatened to lose more than 1 million euros in â€œinvestmentsâ€ if they published stories on the â€œDieselgateâ€ in issues featuring advertising for VW and Audi. But according to the paper, several editors of regional publications â€œtold them to get lost.â€
CHINA ARRESTS TWO JAPANESE FOR SPYING
Two Japanese citizens have been arrested in China over alleged spying, a move that could dent rapprochement efforts between the two countries. According to official Japanese sources who spoke to news agency Kyodo, the two men were arrested separately several months ago. Japan â€œhas never done such a thingâ€ as sending spies to its neighbor country, the official said.
MY GRAND-PÈREâ€™S WORLD
UBER EXECUTIVES TO APPEAR IN FRENCH COURT
Thibaud Simphal and Pierre-Dimitri Gore-Coty, two Uber executives, are expected to appear in a Parisian court today over charges of deceptive commercial practices, providing illegal taxi services and illegally storing personal data, Les Échos reports. The two face a two-year prison sentence and a fine of more than $330,000 under Franceâ€™s taxi legislation.
POPE MET SECRETLY WITH ANTI-GAY MARRIAGE ICON
In a postscript to Pope Francisâ€™ recently completed trip to the United States, reports have emerged that the pontiff met privately in Washington with the local official from Kentucky who served jail time rather than issue marriage licenses to gay couples. Read more in the The Washington Post.
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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