SYRIA SUMMIT BEGINS IN VIENNA
Envoys from 17 countries are gathered in Vienna for the broadest peace talks since the beginning of the Syrian war, a summit nevertheless marked by the notable absence of both the Syrian government and its opposition, The Guardian writes. The U.S., France, Turkey, Russia and China are among the participants, but the presence of arch rivals Saudi Arabia and Iran will likely pose the toughest challenge, with both sides unlikely to agree on a common position, according to The New York Times. But the Obama administration seems to have abandoned its stance that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad must go, and is now open to him staying on as part of a political transition, The Wall Street Journal reports.
NARCOTICS HUB OF THE AMERICAS
Photo: El Universal/ZUMA
The violence-plagued state of Michoacán on Mexico's central Pacific coast has risen to become the center of narcotics production in the country, according to an investigative report by leading Mexican newspaper El Universal. Mexico is the worldâ€™s leading supplier of methamphetamines, as identified in a 2014 UN report. And Michoacán, where some 460 clandestine drug laboratories were dismantled between 2006 and 2015, is the countryâ€™s top center of production. Read more in Le Blog.
CHINA SAYS U.S. INCURSIONS COULD â€œSPARK WARâ€
China's naval commander Wu Shengli told his U.S. counterpart Admiral John Richardson that incursions in the South China Sea like that of USS Lassen Tuesday could represent a â€œa minor incident that sparks war,â€ Reuters reports. Beijing has denounced U.S. movements in the area as â€œprovocative actions.â€ This came after an international court in The Hague, Netherlands, ruled it had the authority to decide whether China was violating the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea over an island dispute with the Philippines in the South China Sea.
ON THIS DAY
The Rumble in Jungle, The War of the Worlds and the on-field brilliance of Diego Maradona. All that and more in todayâ€™s shot of history.
U.S. CITIZEN ARRESTED IN IRAN
Siamak Namazi, a U.S.-Iranian businessman, was arrested earlier this month in Tehran, becoming the fourth American of Iranian descent currently detained in the country, and the first to be arrested since a nuclear deal with Iran was reached, The Washington Post reports. According to the newspaper, itâ€™s not clear what charges might be brought against him.
Manufacturers agree that the manual transmission, otherwise known as the stick shift, is probably doomed in the long run, Jean-Michel Normand reports for Le Monde. â€œA double movement that has seen automatic transmissions both improve and diversify is now threatening to make stick shifts about as relevant as crank handles and starter buttons. What used to be a slow, gas-guzzling and noisy torque converter has now become much more reactive thanks to electronics and the rise in the number of gears (the norm having gone from six to nine).â€
Read the full article, Are Stick Shifts On The Road To Extinction?
MY GRAND-PÈREâ€™S WORLD
LAST BRIT HELD IN GUANTANAMO FREED
Shaker Aamer, the last British resident detained at Guantanamo Bay, was released this morning after 13 years and is heading back to Britain, the BBC reports. Aamer, a 46-year-old born in Saudi Arabia, was detained in Afghanistan in 2001 over American suspicions he had led a Taliban unit and met Osama Bin Laden. He consistently denied the claims but was never tried.
A new study shows that headphones or earphones have replaced lullabies for 9% of French babies up to 2 years old, leaving pediatricians and ENT specialists dismayed, Le Monde reports. â€œTheyâ€™ll be deaf at 30,â€ one doctor said. The study also reveals that 21% of children under 6 use headphones to fall to sleep in bed or during car journeys, and the number rises to 74% for kids between 7 and 12.
MIGRANT BOAT CAPSIZES OFF GREECE
At least 22 migrants, including 13 children, drowned last night off the Greek coast after their sank as it tried to reach European shores, AFP reports. Another 144 people were rescued. Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras expressed â€œendless griefâ€ for the victims and said he felt â€œshamed as a member of this European leadership, both for the inability of Europe in dealing with this human drama, and for the level of debate at a senior level, where one is passing the buck to the other.â€
- Another four migrants were found dead near the southern Spanish coast and 35 more are missing after their boat capsized yesterday, ABC reports.
ORIGINS OF THE AUSSIE ACCENT
A theory that the Australian accent originated from widespread drunkenness isnâ€™t making everybody down under happy.
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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