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.
US deserves a leader as good as New Zealand prime minister: NYT
NEW YORK: A leading American newspaper Friday applauded New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s leadership in the wake of last week’s tragic attack on two mosques in Christchurch.
The world has watched as issues such as national grief, gun control, social media streaming and religious freedom have been navigated by the world’s youngest female head of government, it was pointed out.
The New York Time, in the editorial published Friday titled ‘America Deserves a Leader as Good as Jacinda Ardern’, commends the 38-year-old for her stunning capacity to carry a nation through what she called New Zealand’s ‘darkest hour.
In particular, it noted the stark contrast between the responses of New Zealand and the United States to mass shootings.
“In New Zealand, it took one mass shooting to awaken the government. In the United States, even a string of mass killings — 26 dead in a school in Newtown, Connecticut; 49 in a nightclub in Orlando; 58 at a concert in Las Vegas; 17 in a school in Parkland, Florida — has not been enough. Nor has the fact that 73 percent of Americans say that more needs to be done to curb gun violence, according to recent polling,” it said.
And it was not just the gun control issue that impressed.
“In lieu of trite messages, she donned a black head scarf and led a group of politicians to visit victims’ families; speaking without a script to a school some of the victims attended, she urged the pupils to “let New Zealand be a place where there is no tolerance for racism. Ever.”
She told grieving families, “We cannot know your grief, but we can walk with you at every stage.”
And in a striking gesture, she refused to utter the name of the suspected killer. “He may have sought notoriety, but we in New Zealand will give him nothing,” she said. “Not even his name,” the editorial said.
The article continued, “After this and any such atrocity, the world’s leaders should unite in clearly condemning racism, sharing in the grief of the victims and stripping the haters of their weapons.
” Ms Ardern has shown the way.”
The Christchurch shooting, reportedly carried out by a white supremacist from Australia, has revived the debate over US gun laws and over remarks President Donald Trump made after a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017, when he said there were “very fine people on both sides.”
The suspected gunman in a manifesto said he supported Trump as a “symbol of renewed white identity.”
The president’s critics have accused him of stoking white nationalist sentiment, a claim the White House denies.
Trump on Monday blasted the media, saying they were trying to blame him for the New Zealand shooting.
“The Fake News Media is working overtime to blame me for the horrible attack in New Zealand,” Trump tweeted. “They will have to work very hard to prove that one. So Ridiculous!”
UN chief calls for int’l plan to help protect religious sites, during visit to New York mosque
UNITED NATIONS: UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres Friday called for an international action plan to help protect religious sites worldwide, during a visit to a New York Islamic center one week after the deadly shooting at two mosques in New Zealand.
Addressing the Juma congregation, he announced that he was tasking the head of the U.N. Alliance of Civilizations to develop “an action plan” so all U.N. bodies can help safeguard religious sites. He told reporters outside that “hate speech is spreading like wildfire.”
The secretary-general named Mian Naeem Rashid of Pakistan among the heroes who lost their lives while trying to save others. Rashid and his son Talha were killed trying to confront the white supremacist who attacked their mosque in Christchurch last Friday.
The UN chief spoke, with a “heavy and full heart,” of the grief and sympathy felt for the families of the victims, and the moving displays of “leadership, love and community from the people of New Zealand.”
Among the diplomats present in the mosque during the secretary-general’s visit was Pakistan’s Ambassador to the UN, Maleeha Lodhi.
“Mosques and all places of prayer and contemplation should be safe havens, not sites of terror,” Guterres told namazis.
“Worshippers must feel safe to worship.”
The secretary-general met with namazis at the Islamic Cultural’s Centre’s mosque and offered “solidarity with the Muslim Community from New York to New Zealand and beyond”.
“You are not alone,” Guterres promised the Muslim community, and all others feeling targeted. “The world is with you. The United Nations is with you. I’m with you.”
Speaking to reporters, the UN chief announced that he had asked Spanish diplomat Miguel Moratinos with the drafting of an action plan for the United Nations to support efforts to protect religious sites.
Moratinos heads the UN Alliance of Civilisations, a group led by Spain and Turkey that seeks to foster better understanding between cultures and societies.
The group will reach out to governments, religious leaders and organizations to explore actions to prevent such attacks as the Christchurch shooting that left 50 dead.
Guterres said the attack in New Zealand was “utterly appalling” but “perhaps not utterly surprising”, citing the rise of anti-Muslim hatred, anti-Semitism and bigotry.
Social media is being exploited to spread bigotry while many political movements either openly admit to being neo-Nazi or are “lip syncing their words,” he added.
Citing a US academic study, the UN chief highlighted the important role of the media in the representation of Muslims and Islam, noting that, over the last decade, attacks in the United States received 357 per cent more coverage than attacks carried out by others.
Guterres called for a reaffirmation of the sanctity of all places of worship and “the safety of all worshippers who visit revered sites in a spirit of compassion and tolerance. People everywhere must be allowed to observe and practice their faith in peace.”
The UN chief spoke of the victims of the Christchurch shooting, and said he was “deeply moved by the extraordinary display of leadership, love and community from the people of New Zealand.”
Trump drops new N. Korea sanctions
WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump on Friday abruptly announced the cancellation of sanctions imposed by his own Treasury Department to tighten international pressure on North Korea.
“It was announced today by the U.S. Treasury that additional large scale Sanctions would be added to those already existing Sanctions on North Korea. I have today ordered the withdrawal of those additional Sanctions!” Trump said in a tweet. He appeared to be referring to measures unveiled Thursday that targeted two Chinese companies accused of helping North Korea to evade tight international sanctions meant to pressure Pyongyang into ending its nuclear weapons program.
But The Washington Post reported, citing Trump administration officials, that the president’s tweet referenced future sanctions that had not been announced and were scheduled for “the coming days.” The Thursday sanctions were the first new sign of pressure since talks between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un broke down in Hanoi less than a month ago. However, Trump, who has previously spoken of “love” for the totalitarian leader, appears to retain hope that his strong personal relationship will bear fruit.
“President Trump likes Chairman Kim and he doesn’t think these sanctions will be necessary,” the president’s spokeswoman, Sarah Sanders, said. Adam Schiff, a Democrat who heads the intelligence committee in the House of Representatives, blasted Trump for cancelling sanctions “imposed only yesterday and championed by his own national security advisor, because he ‘loves’ Kim.”
“Foolish naivete is dangerous enough. Gross incompetence and disarray in the White House make it even worse,” Schiff tweeted. On Thursday, Trump national security advisor John Bolton had tweeted that the sanctions were meant to put an end to “illicit shipping practices” by North Korea. “Everyone should take notice and review their own activities to ensure they are not involved in North Korea’s sanctions evasion,” he said.
China complained, saying that it did enforce all UN resolutions and opposed “any country imposing unilateral sanctions and taking long-arm jurisdiction against any Chinese entity according to their own domestic laws.” This was Trump’s second major, unexpected foreign policy announcement by Twitter in two days. On Thursday, he sent a tweet reversing decades of US policy and pledged to recognize Israeli sovereignty over the hotly contested Golan Heights border area with Syria.