Gaza Strikes, Sarkozy Summoned, Waffle Boycott

A bit of spring cleaning for the the Xiaolangdi Dam on the Yellow River in Jiyuan.
A bit of spring cleaning for the the Xiaolangdi Dam on the Yellow River in Jiyuan.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

The recovery late Monday of the bodies of three missing Israeli teenagers sparked widespread reaction across the country, including angry words from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, followed by swift military action.

The Israeli army launched a major air strike operation in Gaza, hitting 34 targets which the IDF said were associated with “Hamas and Islamic Jihad”, as rockets were fired into southern parts of the country, according to The Times Of Israel.

AFP also reported that the army had demolished the homes of two main suspects in the kidnapping and killing of the three students, while Ma’an news agency said a Palestinian teenager was shot dead by Israeli forces during clashes early today as the Israeli military raided a refugee camp. A spokeswoman for the military however said the 16 year-old was a “Hamas operative” about to throw a bomb at the soldiers.

Israel’s daily Haaretz writes that in Jerusalem, “tensions have been rising between Jews and Arabs,” since the three bodies were discovered yesterday. The latest events suggest the situation is escalating, despite warnings from Western leaders, including Barack Obama who yesterday urged “all parties to refrain from steps that could further destabilize the situation.”

The recently elected Iraqi Parliament gathered today for the opening of its first session, with talks focusing on a potential successor to current Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, whose party won the biggest share of the vote in the latest poll. But, AP explains, the session ended early, as members failed to agree, while incumbent PM Nouri al-Maliki, who has been accused of discriminating the country’s Sunni minority, “has shown little willingness to step aside”. Meanwhile, the president of the autonomous region of Kurdistan told the BBC that he will “hold a referendum and it's a matter of months,” adding that the country was in effect already partitioned. Last month was the deadliest in Iraq since mid-2007, with at least 2,417 Iraqis killed, most of them civilians, and 2,287 injured, according to statistics published by the United Nations.

Check out today’s Snapshot of the World, featuring the Xiaolangdi Dam on the Yellow River in Jiyuan, central China's Henan Province.

Benjamin Barthe of Le Monde reports from Damascus on the dark economic web that is key to the Assad regime’s hold on power. “In terms of scheming, the master is still Rami Makhlouf. A cousin of Bashar al-Assad's, he controls large sections of the Syrian economy, including the country's main mobile network Syriatel.”
Read the full article, The Shady Syrian Oligarchs Who Keep The Regime Afloat.

Kiev has resumed “the active phase of the antiterrorist operation” in Eastern Ukraine, Parliament speaker and former interim president Oleksandr Turchynov announced this morning. This comes after President Petro Poroshenko put an end yesterday to a 10-day unilateral truce that was only partly respected, vowing to “attack and liberate our land.” According to Russian network RT, shelling in eastern cities has resumed with reports of casualties in Kramatorsk as a bus was fired upon, while separatists are said to have shot down a Ukrainian bomber.

The Japanese Cabinet approved a reinterpretation of the country’s post-War pacifist Constitution, ending a self-imposed ban on exercising “collective self-defence,” Kyodo news agency reports. According to Reuters, the decision is likely to “rile an increasingly assertive China, whose ties with Japan have frayed due to a maritime row, mistrust and the legacy of Japan’s past military aggression.”
For more on Japan’s reinforced military policy, we offer this Le Monde/Worldcrunch piece, Japan's Quiet Return To Global Weapons Market.

The number of overseas tourists visiting China's capital fell by 10% last year compared to 2012, with air pollution blamed for the decline.

Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy was brought in this morning for questioning over allegations that he tried to pervert the course of justice in an ongoing corruption probe, Le Monde reports. This is the first time a former head of state has been summoned for questioning in France. Investigators suspect the 59 year-old of having obtained inside information on an inquiry into the funding of his 2007 presidential campaign, to which former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi as well as L’Oréal heiress Liliane Bettencourt are alleged to have participated illegally. The recent developments could be a fatal blow to Sarkozy’s declared hopes of a comeback, in time for the country’s presidential election in 2017.

Former NSA consultant and whistleblower Edward Snowden has reportedly applied for his asylum in Russia, which will expire next month, to be extended for another year, The Moscow Times writes.

The German pastor Christian Fuehrer, one of the leading figures of the peaceful demonstrations to end the dictatorship in East Germany, has died from respiratory problems at the age of 71.


Ahead of tonight’s World Cup clash between Belgium and the U.S.A., Waffle House, America's best-known purveyor of the griddled breakfast goodie, is urging a boycott of Belgian waffles. (What if they just renamed them Freedom Waffles? Did you know French Fries were invented in Belgium? Are you hungry yet?)

— Crunched by Marc Alves.

Keep up with the world. Break out of the bubble.
Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!

The Food Truck, A Sign That The White And Wealthy Are Moving In

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.

Balboa Park Spring Fling Food Truck festival

San Diego Food Trucks via Facebook
Pascale Joassart-Marcelli

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.

Food vendor at outdoor international marketplace called Fair@44.

Fairat44 via Instagram

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?

Food vendor at outdoor international marketplace called Fair@44.

Fairat44 via Instagram

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 Conversation


Pascale Joassart-Marcelli is a Professor of Geography and Director, Urban Studies and Food Studies Programs at San Diego State University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Keep up with the world. Break out of the bubble.
Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!