SYRIA SLIDING BACK TO OPEN WAR
Few had dared to consider the five-year-long conflict in Syria over. Yet for the past two months a fragile truce among some, though not all, the warring sides had offered a bit of hope that peace might not be too far off. Casualties were down, diplomats were talking, life was even returning to normal in the capital, Damascus. But recent events appear to be pointing Syria decidedly back toward all-out war. At least 20 civilians were killed yesterday in regime strikes in the countryâ€™s largest city Aleppo, the latest brutal news on the ground as warring factions intensify attacks. Staffan de Mistura, the UN envoy to Syria, said this morning that the the partial truce is "barely alive" pleading with the U.S. and Russia to salvage ongoing peace talks.
- "I really fear that the erosion of the cessation is unraveling the fragile consensus around a political solution, carefully built over the last year," de Mistura said in his early morning briefing obtained by The Associated Press.
- Casualties from the government strikes yesterday on a hospital and nearby residential building in eastern Aleppo included children, a dentist and the only pediatrician left in rebel-held areas of the city, civil defense volunteers told the AFP.
- For a brief but wrenching glance of the human toll of the renewed violence, Al Arabiya has tweeted a video of a mother mourning her dead baby.
ITâ€™S A FACEBOOK WORLD
Mark Zuckerbergâ€™s social media behemoth is not only huge, itâ€™s hugely profitable â€" and increasingly mobile. Facebook first-quarter earnings wowed investors yesterday, showing a profit of 77 cents per share on revenue of $5.4 billion for the quarter. Roughly 79% of its revenue came from mobile advertising. Hereâ€™s the report from the tech website Recode.
â€" ON THIS DAY
Your 57-second shot of history, today celebrating 15 years of space tourism.
NORTH KOREAN MISSILE FLOP
North Korea fired what appeared to have been an intermediate-range ballistic missile this morning that fizzled and crashed seconds after the test launch, a South Korea's defense ministry official told Reuters. The news marks the latest apparent failure, after a similar missile launched on the April 15 birthday of North Korean national founder, Kim Il-sung, exploded in what the U.S. Defense Department called a "fiery, catastrophic" failure.
Counting down 100 days to the Rio Olympics, todayâ€™s front page of the Athens-based Kathimerini daily features the torch ceremony in the Greek capital.
PRINCE DEATH: SOURCE CITES PAINKILLERS
Authorities investigating the death of music legend Prince found common prescription opioid medication on his person and in his Minnesota home, a law enforcement official told CNN yesterday. Investigators are awaiting results of the autopsy after the singerâ€™s death last week at the age of 57, with reports that he may have overdosed a week earlier on a plane.
â€" MY GRAND-PEREâ€™S WORLD
Lost In Time â€" PeÄ‡, 1966
CHINA CLAMPS DOWN ON FOREIGN NGOS
Chinaâ€™s parliament has passed a law placing new restrictions on foreign non-governmental organizations, the Chinese state news agency Xinhua reports. Earlier this week, a draft of law seemed to give broad powers to the state to regulate the activities and financing of such foreign organizations, sparking criticism from Western countries and pro-democracy activists.
TERROR ARRESTS IN ITALY
At least six people were arrested this morning during a vast anti-terrorism sweep across northern Italy. Rome-based daily La Repubblica reports that among those arrested was a Moroccan couple near the city of Lecco that was planning to move to Syria to join jihadists, bringing their two small children along.
Rock music, tight spandex bodysuits and staged maneuvers aren't just for audiences in working-class America. As Julien Burri writes for Le Temps, wrestling is thriving in Switzerland and elsewhere across Europe, where it's seen as a different kind of performance art that even inspired French philosophers. "The warriors size each other up, and then the fight starts. The British Stallion taunts Yoshimiro Yamada, loudly thumping his chest, which soon turns bright red. In the audience, a spectator named Nathalie is filled with enthusiasm. "I love it," she says. With the first contact between the fighters, the Stallion sends his opponent to the ground. The bodies fall back heavily on the flooring. Audience members grit their teeth, certain the fighters won't rise up from this, surely their spinal cords have just been smashed. But they do get back up â€" these spandex-wearing warriors are relentless."
Read the full article, How WWF-Style Pro Wrestling Looks In The Heart Of Europe.
TUSK BONFIRE IN KENYA
Kenyan authorities plan to burn up to 5% of the worldâ€™s entire ivory supply in a move aimed at undermining illegal elephant poachers. Read more here.
â€" MORE STORIES, EXCLUSIVELY IN ENGLISH BY WORLDCRUNCH
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- Baby Looks In Mirror â€" Video Quote Of The Day
DONâ€™T SWEAT IT
A new study from Canada says just a wee bit of exercise is enough. How little? A high-impact one-minute workout three times a week can improve your health as much as a single moderate 45-minute session. And what about one session of low-impact lifting-myself-off-the-couch?
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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