New Russian Sanctions, Japan's Centenarians, Early Snow

Record-breaking South Dakota snowfall
Record-breaking South Dakota snowfall

Sept. 12, 2014

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government and its allies Russia and Iran reacted negatively to U.S. President Barack Obama’s plans to launch airstrikes against ISIS in Syria, warning that such a move would violate international law if done outside the UN or without Assad’s approval, The Guardian reports. Rebel groups fighting against Assad support the Washington-led coalition, which includes Saudi Arabia and other opponents of the Syrian regime. Meanwhile, the CIA explained that ISIS has between 20,000 to 31,500 fighters, three times more than it previously estimated.

Former French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin, remembered for his UN speech opposing the 2003 war in Iraq, made strong comments in an interview with French news network BFM TV. “A third war in Iraq is absurd and dangerous,” he said, adding that past military interventions had “multiplied” the number of terrorist hubs.

Writing in The Washington Post, David Ignatius expressed his belief that Obama’s “innate cautiousness is now actually a reassurance that he’ll fight this war sensibly … in a way that doesn’t needlessly exacerbate the United States’ problems with the Muslim world.”

Sami Ramadani, a Iraqi lecturer, takes the opposite view in The Guardian, denouncing Western backing of rebel groups in Syria and Iraq and accusing the U.S. of “using the ISIS savagery to further their strategic aims of dominating the region and its resources.”

Parts of Wyoming have reported getting over a foot of snowfall, while parts of South Dakota, in its earliest measure of snow on record, has been covered with eight inches, just 10 days after Labor Day and with 12 days of summer still remaining.

The European Union published a new list of sanctions this morning that bar Russia’s primary oil companies from raising capital or borrowing money on European markets. Brussels is also curbing its business with Russian oil and defense companies. But this new round of sanctions could be lifted next month if the fragile ceasefire in Ukraine holds, Reuters reports. Washington is also expected to announce new sanctions. Meanwhile, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko announced the country’s parliament would ratify the pact he signed with the EU before the summer and said he hoped to secure a “special status” with NATO.

“The accused had the intention to shoot at the person behind the door, not to kill," South African Judge Thokozile Masipa ruled this morning, rendering a verdict of "culpable homicide" for paralympic athlete Oscar Pistorius, who was accused of murdering his girlfriend last year. Pistorius, who could face 15 years in prison when he sentenced in a couple of weeks, managed to escape premeditated and even second-degree murder verdicts because the judge said there wasn’t enough evidence to prove that. Though she did say that Pistorius "acted too hastily and used too much force. It is clear his conduct is negligent." Read more from the BBC.

The Borno Elder Forum, a group of influential people from the northeastern Nigerian state of Borno, warned yesterday that Islamist group Boko Haram had “completely surrounded” the state capital Maiduguri and called for the military to “fortify” the city of two million people, the BBC reports. According to Nigerian newspaper Vanguard, the defense forces are ready for battle, although the Nigerian armed forces dismissed the reports published in the foreign media as “clearly intended to cause panic in the city and the nation.”

Japan's population of centenarians has hit a record high for the 44th year in a row, the government announced Friday.


The U.S. government threatened to fine Yahoo $250,000 a day back in 2008 if it refused to hand over user data to the National Security Agency as part of the agency’s PRISM program, according to court documents unsealed yesterday. In a blog post, the company explains that the information contained in the 1,500 pages of documents illustrate “how we had to fight every step of the way to challenge the U.S. government’s surveillance efforts.” Read more from The Washington Post.

Star Wars without the music really isn’t that great.

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!