UNESCO DENOUNCES ISIS ATTACK ON ANCIENT CULTURE
The head of UNESCO called for an emergency meeting of the UN’s cultural agency after a five-minute video clip yesterday showed a group of ISIS militants destroying large statues and ancient artefacts in a museum in Mosul, Iraq. “This attack is far more than a cultural tragedy — this is also a security issue as it fuels sectarianism, violent extremism and conflict in Iraq,” Irina Bokova said in a statement. This came just days after reports that the terrorist group had bombed the Mosul Central Library, one of the richest libraries in Iraq, according to Al Jazeera. Militants are also believed to have torched bookshops.
“I think all the families will feel closure and relief once there's a bullet between his eyes,” Bethany, the daughter of British aid worker David Haines, killed by ISIS in one of the group’s gruesome videos, said after learning the real identity of “Jihadi John.” Mrs Haines on the contrary expressed hope that Mohammed Emwazi, a Kuwaiti-born Briton in his mid-20s, “will be caught alive ... He needs to be put to justice but not in that way.” Read more reactions on the BBC.
ON THIS DAY
One of the greatest movie stars of all time was born on this day. Find out who on your 57-second shot of history.
GERMAN MPS APPROVES GREEK BAILOUT EXTENSION
The German Bundestag has approved with an overwhelming majority a four-month extension of Greece’s bailout program, with 542 votes in favor, 32 against and 13 abstentions, Der Spiegel reports. During the debate, Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble said that “Germans should do everything in their power to keep Europe together,” Süddeutsche Zeitung reports. But according to Deutsche Welle, other media outlets are already reporting that the relief may be short as Athens will likely require another bailout when the extended program expires.
Photo above: Liu Bin/Xinhua/ZUMA
In Havana, Cuba, a contestant participates in the "longest ash" competition during the annual Habanos cigar festival.
The Virginia General Assembly has agreed to pay $25,000 in compensation to each of the 11 surviving victims of a forced sterilization campaign carried out between 1924 and 1979. More than 7,000 people were operated under the Virginia Eugenical Sterilization Act, which was aimed at improving “the genetic composition of humankind by preventing those considered "defective" from reproducing" and is believed to have been followed by other U.S. states — as well as Nazi Germany. Read more from AP.
Victor Gregg, a 95-year-old World War II veteran and the only Briton who was on Dresden soil during the Allied bombings on the German city, believes Churchill "should have been shot." Süddeutsche Zeitung’s Alexander Menden tells his story: “While Gregg and his friend Harry were crammed into a hall in the middle of town, together with other POWs who had been sentenced to death, the sirens started to blare. Through the hall's glass roof, they could see the flares being dropped by warplanes.
Panic reigned, and moments later four incendiary bombs dropped through the glass roof. Gregg and Harry pressed themselves against the wall, managing to avoid the phosphorous and glass shards. Then an air bomb detonated and blew the wall against which they were standing to pieces. It killed Harry instantly. Gregg was buried under the rubble but survived unharmed except for a burn.”
Read the full article, The Singular Tale Of A British Soldier Caught In The Firebombing Of Dresden.
JUDGE DISMISSES CASE AGAINST KIRCHNER
An Argentine judge dismissed yesterday a case against President Cristina Kirchner and her Foreign Minister, accused of conspiring to cover up alleged Iranian involvement in the deadly bombing of a Jewish center in Buenos Aires in 1994. Judge Daniel Rafecas ruled that the accusations brought forward by prosecutor Alberto Nisman before he died in suspicious circumstances did not “minimally hold up” and that there was “not even circumstantial evidence” to support his claims.
MY GRAND-PÈRE’S WORLD
CHINA BANS IVORY IMPORTS
China’s State Forestry Administration has imposed a one-year ban on ivory imports with immediate effect, in a bid to protect African elephants, Xinhua reports. The decision comes amid international criticism that elephants could soon be extinct if nothing is done to put an end to poaching. China is the world's largest importer of smuggled tusks.
Is it white and gold or blue and black? That is the question. The internet has been fighting over the color of this dress since yesterday, but there’s a very good (and very detailed) explanation for why nobody agrees on it.
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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