LOS ANGELES: It’s a chilly winter evening in Los Angeles as Cameron Jones maneuvers his white sports car into an open-air parking lot and picks a secluded spot where he can recline his seat and call it a night.
“I lost my apartment about 10 days ago because I couldn’t afford the $2,200 rent and was told this is a safe place to be until I get back on my feet,” said Jones.
“I can sleep soundly here without having to keep waking up at night and looking over my shoulder,” added the 26-year-old Marine Corps veteran, who served in Afghanistan and now works for a company that sells solar panels.
Jones joined a health club in order to shower every morning before going to work. His suit hangs in the back seat, ready for use.
Within an hour or so, about a dozen other vehicles — some with children inside — fill the lot that is part of a growing number of so-called “safe parking” areas in California and other US states.
Half a dozen such lots monitored by security guards have sprung up in the Los Angeles area in the last year, offering a temporary safe haven to some of the more than 15,500 people in the region who live in their vehicles.
One “safe parking” is located at the back of a church, another at a synagogue and a third at the sprawling campus operated by the US Department of Veterans Affairs.
Portable toilets and hand-washing stations are available to the vehicle dwellers who must fill out an application before being granted access to the lots.
Iran ‘Threat’: US orders new troops to ME!
WASHINGTON: The United States announced Friday it was deploying 1,500 additional troops to the Middle East in response to what the Pentagon called a “campaign” of recent attacks approved by Iran’s top leadership.
The escalation of the US military presence follows a decision in early May to send an aircraft carrier strike force and B-52 bombers in a show of force against what Washington’s leaders believed was an imminent Iranian plan to attack US assets.
And it comes as the Trump administration is planning to bypass congressional restrictions to sell arms to Saudi Arabia, a close US ally and Iran’s arch-enemy in the region.
“This is a prudent response to credible threats from Iran,” said acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan.
President Donald Trump, who approved the deployment, called it “protective.”
“We want to have protection in the Middle East,” Trump told reporters as he prepared to set off on a trip to Japan.
“We’re going to be sending a relatively small number of troops, mostly protective,” Trump added. “It’ll be about 1,500 people.”
The new deployment includes reconnaissance aircraft, fighter jets, and engineers. Six hundred of the personnel belong to a Patriot missile defense battalion that had its deployment in the region extended.
Pentagon officials said the move was necessary after multiple threatening actions and several small-in-scope attacks in May by Iranian forces, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, and “proxy” forces.
Those include a rocket launched into the Green Zone in Baghdad, explosive devices that damaged four tankers in Fujairah near the entrance to the Gulf, and a Houthi drone attack against a Saudi oil installation.
The initial threat came at the beginning of May, according to Rear Admiral Michael Gilday, director of the Pentagon’s Joint Staff.
The US caught the IRGC attempting to covertly deploy “modified dhows capable of launching cruise missiles,” he said, referring to small traditional boats.
“We view this as a campaign,” Gilday told reporters.
The moves “are all part of a dangerous and escalatory strategy by Iran to threaten global trade and to destabilize the region.”
“We believe with a high degree of confidence that this stems back to the leadership of Iran at the highest levels, and that all of the attacks… have been attributed to Iran through their proxies or their forces,” Gilday said, citing still-secret US intelligence.
US officials said the aim was both to extend greater protection to the 70,000 US forces deployed in the Middle East and Afghanistan, and to deliver a message to Iran to refrain from attacks.
“We think that through a combination of a very measured deployment of assets as well as public messaging, we are again trying to underscore that we are not seeking hostilities with Iran,” he said.
Gilday said the US moves have had some impact. When Washington first learned of Tehran’s alleged intent to launch attacks, it delivered a stern warning to Tehran “within hours” through an unnamed third party.
Since then, the threat of the missile-bearing dhows appears to have subsided.
However, the Trump administration continues to draw criticism that it has not clearly shown the need for an escalation.
Members of Congress were also angered that Trump was overriding their block on delivery of lethal weapons to the Saudis.
“More tactics with absolutely no strategy,” tweeted Democratic Senator Chris Murphy.
“All that is happening now is escalatory move after escalatory move. Trump has ZERO plan for how this ends, and that should scare the hell out of everyone.”
But Pentagon officials stressed that the US does not seek war with Iran.
“We do not see these additional capabilities as encouraging hostilities. We see them as defensive in nature,” said acting Assistant Secretary of Defense Katie Wheelbarger.
“Our policy remains an economic and diplomatic effort to bring Iran back to the negotiating table to encourage a comprehensive deal that addresses the range of their destabilizing behavior in the region.”
CG JoAnne Wagner opens Photo Expo “Muslims in America” (VIDEO AND TEXT)
KARACHI: JoAnne Wagner Consul General of USA, and Syed Sardar Shah Sindh Minister for Culture, have inaugurated a photo exposition titled Muslims in America at Lincoln Corner in the Liaquat National Memorial Library here.
Commenting on the exhibition Consul General remarked: “The images in the exhibit demonstrate two founding principles of American society: those of tolerance of religious diversity; and freedom of religious practice. Americans are proud of their right to practice the religion of their choice, without any fear,”
The photo exhibition showcases religious diversity and religious freedom in the USA that is home to one of the most diverse Muslim populations in the world.
The exhibit will remain open to the general public till 4th June.
Washington considering duties on countries that undervalue currency
WASHINGTON: US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross announced Thursday that the US has proposed a new regulation allowing it to impose counterveiling duties on imports from countries that seek to undervalue their currencies.
Under the proposed regulation, “foreign nations would no longer be able to use currency policies to the disadvantage of American workers and businesses,” Ross said in a statement.
“This proposed rulemaking is a step toward implementing President (Donald) Trump’s campaign promise to address unfair currency practices by our trading partners.”
Ross, who did not respond to a request for comment, did not specify which countries would be targeted.
The statement only said that the proposed regulation “identifies the criteria the department would use to determine if countervailing duties should be imposed for currency undervaluation.”
Countervailing duties on imports are sometimes imposed against countries to offset any premiums or subsidies given, directly or indirectly, to the fabrication, production or export of merchandise.
Trump often accuses Beijing of deliberately weakening its currency to boost its exports, but his administration has refused several times to officially accuse China of manipulating its currency.