👋 добры дзень!*
Welcome to Wednesday, where China/Taiwan tensions rise, Mark Zuckerberg responds to the Facebook whistleblower, and artworks by Muhammad Ali (gloves off) sell at auction. Kiev-based news website Livy Bereg also explains why the Pandora Papers revelations about global financial trickery may hit hardest in Ukraine.
[*Dobry dzien - Belarusian]
🌎 7 THINGS TO KNOW RIGHT NOW
• Tensions between China & Taiwan hit new high: Tensions with China are at their worst in 40 years, says Taiwan's defense minister who is urging the island nation's legislators to boost arms spending. Meanwhile, U.S. President Joe Biden said that he and China's President Xi Jiping agreed to abide by the "Taiwan agreement," under which the U.S. recognises China rather than Taiwan.
• Facebook whistleblower v. Zuckerberg: Frances Haugen, a former Facebook product manager, testified before a Senate subcommittee, after the release of thousands of internal documents, and urged lawmakers to regulate the company that she said prioritized profits over the safety of its users. Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg called the accusations "deeply illogical." (see our Verbatim below)
• COVID update: New study reveals that the skin condition known as "COVID toe," which affects teenagers and children more commonly, may be a side effect of the immune system's response to fight coronavirus. Meanwhile, Russia reported 929 new COVID-19 deaths in one day, a record since the pandemic began, with the Kremlin blaming the slow pace of vaccinations.
• Australia to stop sending asylum seekers to Papua New Guinea: The Australian government announced it would shut a controversial detention center in Papua New Guinea, where asylum seekers and refugees who attempt to reach Australia by boat were sent.
• California oil spill sparks push to ban offshore drilling: California lawmakers demanded to stop all oil drilling off the state's coast after a pipeline burst and spilled about 3,000 barrels of crude oil into the Pacific Ocean, killing wildlife.
• Nobel Prize in chemistry: This year's Nobel Prize in Chemistry goes to Germany's Benjamin List and Scotland-born scientist David W.C. MacMillan "for the development of asymmetric organocatalysis," a new way for building molecules.
• Muhammad Ali art sells at knockout price: Twenty-six drawings by late boxing legend Muhammad Ali sold at auction in New York for a total of $945,524.
🗞️ FRONT PAGE
"The pain and the shame," titles French daily La Croix, after a 2,500-page report revealed that 216,000 minors were victims of sexual abuse by the clergy in the French Catholic Church since 1950.
#️⃣ BY THE NUMBERS
In the village of Ceyrat in central France, the church bells ring 564 times a day, according to a neighbor who has petitioned for a bit of quiet between 10 p.m. and 8 a.m.. The local movement is now gaining national attention — but also facing opposition from other locals worried about losing some of the village's "soul." Between church bells and roosters crowing all day long, not all is as quiet on the French countryside front as the postcards would have you believe.
📰 STORY OF THE DAY
Zelensky's Ukraine, where the Pandora Papers hit hardest
The global probe of offshore accounts around the world strike at the heart of Kiev's current government and power structure of a ruling class that rose to power on the promise of fighting corruption, including the television-star-turned-President Volodymyr Zelensky, reports Iryna Lysohor in Ukrainian news website Livy Bereg.
💸 Volodymyr Zelensky's successful show business career was created in Ukraine through a hidden financial network of offshore companies. Nine years ago, the popular Kvartal 95 went to TV channel 1+1. Their shows and programs were hits on the channel owned by Igor Kolomoisky, who will later support Zelensky and the team not only as entertainers but also as politicians. According to the Pandora Papers, millions from Kolomoisky went not only to the accounts of Ukrainian companies close to Zelensky and his associates. The money also went where there was warm weather and lower taxes.
🔍 Cases involving high-ranking civil servants are being investigated by the National Anti-Corruption Bureau. NABU detectives are also investigating crimes related to money laundering. The investigation believes that the former owners, in particular Igor Kolomoisky and Hennadii Boholyubov, could have caused billions in losses to the state. But the Security Service of Ukraine was unable to calculate the amount of damage and the case got stuck.
⚖️ What destiny awaits Zelensky? And Kolomoisky? For the latter, this week Kolomoisky is in the United States, where his fate risks being the same as former Ukrainian Prime Minister Pavlo Lazarenko: to wind up in an American prison. For Zelensky, nobody wants to talk about the secret network of offshore companies. Only Borys Shafir, the co-founder of Kvartal 95, responded to a few of our questions. He, unlike his partners, did not go into politics, and now is the owner of a significant part of the offshore business of Kvartal.➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com
The argument that we deliberately push content that makes people angry for profit is deeply illogical.
— Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg responded to the bombshell allegations of former employee Frances Haugen that the company knowingly profits off of misinformation and hateful content. After Haugen's testimony Tuesday in front of a U.S. Senate Commerce Committee's consumer protection subcommittee Zuckerberg wrote a long Facebook post:
"At the heart of these accusations is this idea that we prioritize profit over safety and well-being," the Facebook founder wrote. "That's just not true ... The argument that we deliberately push content that makes people angry for profit is deeply illogical. We make money from ads, and advertisers consistently tell us they don't want their ads next to harmful or angry content."
한류, pronounced "hallyu", meaning Korean Wave, is one of 26 Korean words that have just been added to Oxford English Dictionary. The word describes the increase in international interest in South Korea and its popular culture, and reflects the global success of the country's music, film, TV, fashion and food.
✍️ Newsletter by Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger
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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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