Geopolitics

Ukraine Refugees Attacked, Gaza Talks Resume, British Humor

Workers clean the clock face of Elizabeth Tower, which houses Big Ben, in London yesterday.
Workers clean the clock face of Elizabeth Tower, which houses Big Ben, in London yesterday.

Aug. 19, 2014

ISIS THREATENS AMERICANS
In an online video message, ISIS terrorists threaten to attack Americans “in any place” in retaliation for U.S. airstrikes against them in Iraq, The Independent reports. In the gruesome video, a statement reads, “We will drown all of you in blood.” This comes as Kurdish Peshmergas and Iraqi troops fully recaptured the strategic Mosul Dam yesterday with the help of U.S. fighter jets, bombers and drones. U.S. President Barack Obama praised the fighters for their victory, which he described as a “major step forward” in the fight against the Islamist jihadists.

ANOTHER NIGHT OF FERGUSON CHAOS
U.S. Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. will travel to Ferguson, Mo., tomorrow to oversee the investigation into the fatal police shooting of black teenager Michael Brown. Last night, the St. Louis suburb was again the stage of violent clashes between protesters and the police, supported by the National Guard, AP reports.

Captain Ron Johnson of the Missouri Highway Patrol said during a press conference early this morning that two people in the crowd had been wounded by gunshots fired by protesters, claiming that “not a single bullet was fired by officers despite coming under heavy attack.” He explained that 31 people had been arrested overnight, including some who had come from New York and California. Among those arrested were two German reporters and Scott Olson, a Getty photographer who took some of the best pictures from Ferguson.

Meanwhile, Amnesty International weighed in this morning, tweeting, “US can't tell other countries to improve their records on policing and peaceful assembly if it won't clean up its own human rights record.”

GAZA TALKS RESUME IN CAIRO
Negotiators from the Palestinian territories and Israel have resumed talks in Cairo after both sides agreed to extend a five-day ceasefire that expired last night for 24 hours. Discussions are again expected to focus on Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip, while Israel wants a disarmament of the territory. Haaretz reported yesterday that Israel has been barring Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch workers from entering Gaza to investigate alleged war crimes committed by the Israeli army.

$2 MILLION
That’s how much a Seinfeld-inspired Israeli entrepreneur raised with a slideshow about nothing.

UKRAINE REFUGEE CONVOY ATTACKED
At least 15 bodies have been recovered from the site of a rocket strike on a refugee convoy near the eastern Ukrainian town of Luhansk yesterday. But according to The Guardian, “dozens of people, including women and children” are believed to have died in the attack, which Kiev authorities blamed on pro-Russian rebels. A representative of the self-declared Donetsk People's Republic said rebel forces did not have the ability to send such missiles to that specific area, and replied that the Ukrainian army had been bombarding the same road the convoy of buses was traveling on with similar rockets.

FAREWELL
Legendary Saturday Night Live announcer Don Pardo died Monday at age 96. Pardo introduced the acts for the late-night show, introducing the opening credits, from October 1975 until last season's May finale.

EBOLA DEATH TOLL TOPS 1,200
The World Health Organization has updated its figures on the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, saying that at least 2,240 cases have been reported this year, resulting in 1,229 deaths. The WHO also announced a partnership with the UN's World Food Programme to ensure food delivery to one million people living in Ebola quarantine zones in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, Reuters reports. The Wall Street Journal, meanwhile, explains that an experimental drug is showing encouraging signs, with an American Ebola patient “gaining strength.”

MY GRAND-PÈRE’S WORLD

INDIA CALLS OFF PAKISTAN PEACE TALKS
Recently elected Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi cancelled a planned meeting between India’s and Pakistan’s Foreign Ministers about the disputed Kashmir region because of what he sees as “interference” in internal affairs, the Indian Express reports. The decision came after Pakistani leaders met with Kashmiri separatist leaders ahead of the talks, something the Pakistani foreign ministry said was “longstanding practice.” Daily newspaper The Times of India commented that while “previous governments preferred to overlook these meetings, Modi has signaled he will not,” choosing to show his “tough side.”

BRITISH HUMOR
As the BBC reports, a joke by comedian Tim Vine about a vacuum cleaner has been voted the funniest at this year's Edinburgh Fringe Festival. “I've decided to sell my Hoover. Well, it was just collecting dust," the comedian quipped.

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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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