👋 Na ngeen def!*
Welcome to Tuesday, where much of the world gets back online after a six-hour outage of Facebook-linked apps, the rich and powerful try to close the Pandora Papers box, and a Star Trek icon will boldly go where few have gone before. And remember that polluted Argentine lake that turned pink in July? Well, it's not pink anymore ...
[*Wolof - Senegal, Gambia, Mauritania]
What is freedom? Surviving the Facebook outage in Bulgaria
"Do you get how big this is? It's been two hours now…"
No, I didn't get how big it was. Mostly, I was amazed that Daniel was both speaking in full sentences and making eye contact — I'd only ever seen him muted and bent over his computer screen scrolling through graphs and columns. But now he was reclining and spinning his office chair in the freshly remodeled common area of the co-working space I've called "the office" for the past four weeks.
"If Facebook stays down, some of my clients will lose six-figures," he said, looking half-amused, half-panicked.
Daniel (who turned out to be quite the talker during social media outages) had quit his day job after getting "almost rich" on bitcoin, and now divided his time between crypto trading, PR consultancy and freelance "growth hacking."
His isn't a particularly original story here at the shared office in central Sofia, Bulgaria. Many I've spoken to since arriving in September do something IT-Crypto related — mostly expats, some having moved here for the corporate tax flat rate of 10%, others just passing through before the next nomadic destination.
No matter what their gig or angle or life hack, every single person gives the same reason as Daniel for moving their lives online and on the road: more freedom.
"Have you checked bitcoin? … Way up. Decentralization, man," Daniel went on. More people had dropped into the common room, unable to either work or waste time in the usual ways on Facebook or Instagram or WhatsApp. Suddenly, there was far more social interaction in this kitsch four-story building than I'd seen ever since arriving.
A full-fledged debate was on about what this all meant: "If they built Facebook on a blockchain, this wouldn't have happened," an Estonian web designer from the top floor weighed in. "How safe is our data if they can't even keep their platforms up and running?"
The discussion went on as the evening arrived. Sitting there, listening to the tech-heavy analysis I couldn't fully understand — and philosophical riffs nobody could understand — I realized how hooked the world is on our battery of alerts and likes and digital noise. My only (unshared) thought was: This couldn't possibly be "more freedom."
We will be assured that some simple glitch took down the Facebook empire, and now all is back online — and Mark Zuckerberg will even recoup his lost billions. But the forces behind our economy are more complex than ever, and any person governed by forces beyond comprehension can never be considered truly free. And we digital nomads of Bulgaria jonesing for Facebook and Whatsapp to come back online are the final, self-deluded proof.
— Carl-Johan Karlsson
🌎 7 THINGS TO KNOW RIGHT NOW
• Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp back after outage: Facebook-operated platforms are back online after an unusually long outage Monday, affecting more than 3.5 billion people. Downdetector reported it to be the largest outage they had ever seen, with 10.6 million reports of problems from across the globe. Following the outage, along with new revelations of unethical business practices, Facebook shares plummeted 4.8%, zapping away $5.9 billion from Mark Zuckerberg's fortune.
• Pandora Papers, Day 2: Russian President Vladimir Putin, the King of Jordan and the chairman of a top Indian conglomerate were among global figures denying wrongdoing, after Monday's revelations of the Pandora Papers journalism probe featuring in a huge leak of 12 million financial documents from offshore companies.
• COVID update: New Zealand has dropped its long-standing strategy of eliminating COVID-19, amid a persistent delta outbreak, easing some lockdown restrictions in its biggest city, Auckland. Authorities announced they will focus on increasing vaccination rates and learning to live with the virus.
• Taiwan "on alert" over China: The island nation claimed that Beijing flew a total of 148 military jets into its air defense zone since China celebrated its National Day on October 1. Taiwanese Foreign Minister Joseph Wu warned that "China is going to launch a war against Taiwan at some point, even though the threat may not be imminent."
• Report: 216,000 children abused since 1950 by French priests: A major investigation into sexual abuse in the Catholic Church in France reported that the French clergy sexually abused an estimated 216,000 cihldren since 1950. Its authors accused the Catholic Church leadership of turning a blind eye for too long, and urged major reform.
• Joint Physics Nobel Prize: A century after Albert Einstein, the Nobel Prize in Physics has jointly awarded to U.S.'s Syukuro Manabe and Germany's Klaus Hasselmann "for the physical modelling of Earth's climate, quantifying variability and reliably predicting global warming," as well as to Italy's Giorgio Parisi "for the discovery of the interplay of disorder and fluctuations in physical systems from atomic to planetary scales."
• Beam me up, Jeff! Star Trek icon William Shatner has confirmed that he will go to space this month, on the second launch staged by the Amazon founder Jeff Bezos' space travel company, Blue Origin, making him the oldest person to reach space.
🗞️ FRONT PAGE
Swedish daily Dagens Nyheter features a photograph of police officers mourning the death of their two colleagues who were killed along with artist Lars Vilks in a traffic accident. Vilks was under police protection since 2007 after he received death threats following his drawing of Prophet Muhammad with a dog's body.
📰 STORY OF THE DAY
How far the no-vaxxers will go to dodge vaccine mandates
Countries are rolling out increasingly aggressive campaigns in an international effort to vaccinate the world out of the COVID-19 pandemic. But with the increased pressure comes increased resistance: From anti-vaxxer dating to fake vaccine passports, skeptics are finding new — and sometimes creative — ways to dodge mandates and organize against their governments. Here's how people around the world are getting around vaccination rules:
🤧 In Italy, where the government recently approved a new measure to make digital vaccine certificates compulsory for all employees, strategies to circumvent the signing of a consent form are multiplying. According to Italian daily La Stampa, skeptics are bringing lawyers to vaccination appointments, demanding the doctor to sign off on guarantees that the vaccine is safe, or demanding that the meeting be videotaped. Others are claiming to be allergic to vaccines, undergoing immunosuppressive therapies or suggesting they've had previous vaccine reactions like anaphylactic shock.
📄 A recent study by Check Point Research shows that fake COVID-19 vaccination certificates as well as test results of 29 different countries are being sold on Telegram. In India, the largest market for the popular messaging app, a fake vaccination certificate sells for $75, with prices having dropped by half since March 2021, India's Economic Times reports.
📲 In Indonesia, one of the first countries to instate a blanket mandate for vaccination, anti-vaxxers are taking to social media to undermine government authority. According to Nikkei Asia, Indonesian authorities have removed 2,000 vaccine-related hoaxes from social media platforms. For example, a TV report with manipulated captions had a scientist saying "our people will be killed by Chinese vaccines" and that jabs "make the virus more savage" — receiving 182,000 shares before Facebook took it down.
➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com
#️⃣ BY THE NUMBERS
Global warming is responsible for destroying 14% of the world's coral reefs between 2009 and 2018, according to a report by Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network, with corals in South Asia and the Pacific, around the Arabian Peninsula, and off the coast of Australia, being the hardest hit.
🇦🇷💧 IN OTHER NEWS
Polluted pink lake in Argentina has now turned red
Back in July, Argentine authorities had told people in Trelew, in the coastal province of Chubut, not to worry — a local lake that had turned pink, likely by chemicals, would soon be fine again. But instead, it has now turned red — or a kind of red-to-purple violet — as the daily Jornada de Chubut reported.
And again, locals don't know why.
The chief suspect is the effluents from a nearby fish firm, RASA, according to the Buenos Aires newspaper Clarín. In July residents of Trelew denounced the stench of the effluents entering the lake over two years, and the insects and vermin they attracted, and were evidently dissatisfied when Juan Michelou, a senior provincial environmental officer, said "it'll pass, the lake will recover its normal color within days." But instead, it appears to have gotten worse.
➡️ Read more and see images of the lake turned pink and red on Worldcrunch.com
Taiwan must be on alert. China is more and more over the top.
— Taiwan Premier Su Tseng-chang told reporters in Taipei, after a record 56 Chinese aircraft flew into the country's air defense zone on Monday. He added the country needed to "strengthen itself" to defend its freedoms and democracy against China, which views Taiwan as its own territory.
✍️ Newsletter by Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger
- The XXL Saga Of French Fashion And Inclusive Sizing - Worldcrunch ›
- Latin American Pariah, The Cost Of Brazil's Isolationism - Worldcrunch ›
- Dissecting The Ethics Of Eating Bugs ›
- A Dose Of Epicurus: Ancient Philosopher Cures Italy's COVID Souls ... ›
- Dissecting The Ethics Of Eating Bugs - Worldcrunch ›
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.
- The Perverse Effect Of Street Art On Neighborhood Gentrification ... ›
- Taiwan To Hong Kong To L.A., Birth Of Bubble Tea Culture ... ›
- How The Pandemic Is Helping Reinvent Food Production ... ›
- What's Chic Now In Paris Dining? African-American Soul Food ... ›