Geopolitics

Thai Martial Law, MH370 Data, Sea Of Dead Fish

Thousands of dead fish mysteriously appeared floating along this Southern California coastal town. — Photo: Jonathan Alcorn/ZUMA
Thousands of dead fish mysteriously appeared floating along this Southern California coastal town. — Photo: Jonathan Alcorn/ZUMA
Worldcrunch

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

THAILAND ARMY DECLARES MARTIAL LAW
Thailand army chief Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha declared martial law throughout the country this morning in an attempt to restore peace and order after months of anti-government protests and the recent dismissal of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, The Nationreports. But the army insisted that the move was not a coup, and said “people are urged not to panic, and can carry on their business as usual.” At least 10 TV stations have been closed down until further notice “to stop the spread of false information,” according to an army statement. Meanwhile, AFP reports that military presence in the streets has prompted a wave of selfies from citizens happy to pose next to army forces.

5.5 MILLION
A grim report published today by The Lancetreveals that more than 5.5 million babies are born and die each year without a birth or death certificate. The study says that three million of the deaths are among newborns and that almost half of all the deaths are preventable.

CHINA SUMMONS U.S. AMBASSADOR
The Chinese Foreign Ministry summoned the U.S. ambassador in Beijing one day after Washington charged five Chinese military officers with hacking and stealing data from five American companies and one trade union, a move that The New York Times writes “draws a line that few others recognize.” According to Chinese news agency Xinhua, the country’s Defense Ministry spokesman said that the government “strongly opposed” the indictment, and denied allegations of trade secret cyber theft, calling the accusation “groundless with ulterior motives.”

FAREWELL
Gordon Willis, the cinematographer best known for his use of lighting and shadow in The Godfather and The Godfather II,has died in Massachusetts after a battle with cancer at age 82.

CALL FOR MASS RALLY IN EAST UKRAINE
Industrial magnate Rinat Akhmetov, described as Ukraine’s wealthiest man, called for massive protests against pro-Russian groups today in eastern Ukraine, adding that the events in the Donbass region was “genocide,” The Kyiv Post reports. This comes after yesterday’s decision from the Kremlin to withdraw troops posted near the Ukraine border, which the deputy defense minister told the BBC would be completed “within a few days.”

VERBATIM
Brazil soccer legend Pelé has expressed sympathies with demonstrators but says now is not the right time to protest. "People should have demonstrated when Brazil was chosen to organise the World Cup, and not now that the tournament is very soon."

MY GRAND-PÈRE'S WORLD

MALAYSIA TO RELEASE MH37 DATA
The Malaysian government and the British company Inmarsat have announced that they would soon make raw satellite data from missing Malaysian Airlines plane MH370 available to the public, according to The Star. The release, described by the head of the country’s Department of Civil Aviation as being “in line with our policy of transparency,” has long been demanded by families of the missing passengers. The aircraft, which is believed to have crashed with 239 people on board in the Southern Indian Ocean in early March, still hasn’t been found.

WORLDCRUNCH-TO-GO
In an interview with Gazeta Wyborcza journalist Pawel Gawlik, a senior Ukrainian defense advisor predicts the country will be back in Crimea in two years and says that the government simply cannot negotiate with pro-Russian separatists. “If someone wants to grab the Ukrainian flag and burn it, then we should chop their hand off,” the official tells the journalist. “We need to give an example. We do that once or twice, and there won't be a third time. If we accept the separatists' ultimatum, tomorrow everybody will raise their hand against the Ukrainian insignia.”
Read the full article,
Kiev Military Brass: We Will Not Negotiate With Separatists.

PROSTATE CANCER COULD BE STD
Research by University of California scientists suggests that prostate cancer may be a sexually transmitted disease caused by a common infection, British daily The Independent reports. This infection, called trichomoniasis, is the most common non-viral STI and favored cancer growth when tested in laboratories. Some 275 million people around the world are believed to have been infected with trichomoniasis.

SNAPSHOT
Thousands of dead fish were found floating in California's Marina Del Rey this weekend, and no one knows why.

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Society

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

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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.


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