Tag: Brazil

George Santos Allegedly Stole $3,000 From Veteran Whose Dog Needed Life-Saving Surgery

The George Santos story just keeps getting worse.

My first reaction to the initial New York Times story outing newly-elected New York congressman George Santos as a serial fabulist was surprise, then sadness because I knew his election was in large part made possible by the death of local news. If there’d been competent local media still operating in the area, Santos’ campaign would have ended as suddenly as it started in a flurry of revelatory news coverage, and Santos himself would have been a footnote, a political oddity and embarrassment to the local GOP.

Then for one glorious moment I thought maybe Santos was a performance artist, that we’d find out George Santos is the alias of some comedian or media provocateur whose congressional run was designed from the start to show that politics has become so polarized, so divorced from issues and hitched to ideological loyalties that even a widely disliked grifter — with no roots in the community and a completely fabricated resume — could win simply because he said the right things, pushed the right buttons and kissed the right behinds.

Alas, no Dax Herrera or Ari Shaffir came forward to claim credit for inventing the George Santos persona.

And it just kept getting worse. There were the stories about pending criminal charges for using stolen checks in Santos’ native (?) Brazil, former roommates who saw Santos on TV wearing expensive clothes he’d allegedly stolen from them, and Santos working as the director of a company under investigation for running an alleged Ponzi scheme.

osthoffsapphire1
Sapphire, veteran Rich Osthoff’s service dog.

The latest story might be the most infuriating: Santos is accused of stealing $3,000 from a homeless, PTSD-suffering veteran whose beloved service dog needed life-saving surgery.

Rich Osthoff, who was living on the streets at the time, needed money to pay for veterinary surgery to remove a large and life-threatening tumor from his service dog, Sapphire. Osthoff says Sapphire was his lifeline during difficult times and he was desperate to get her the surgery she needed.

In 2016 a well-meaning vet tech and another veteran connected Osthoff with Santos, who claimed he ran a charity called Friends of Pets United and could help. At the time, Santos was going by the name Anthony Devolder.

Santos set up a GoFundMe drive for Osthoff and Sapphire, raised $3,000 with a tear-jerker of a plea, then basically ghosted Osthoff and his veteran friend Michael Boll, founder of New Jersey Veterans Network. After fobbing them off with a series of excuses, he stopped responding to their calls and vanished with the proceeds.

“It diminished my faith in humanity,” Osthoff said of the experience.

Santos denied the accusation.

“Fake,” Santos texted news startup Semafor on Wednesday. “No clue who this is.”

osthoffsapphire
Osthoff with Sapphire.

But dozens of other people besides Osthoff, Boll and the vet tech were involved and confirmed Santos’ role in the fundraiser, there are publicly visible tweets from 2016 linking to it — and crediting “Anthony Devolder” for running it — and GoFundMe acknowledged the existence of the drive.

In addition, news reports have confirmed Friends of Pets United, Santos’ “charity,” was never registered as a non-profit. Santos also defrauded an animal rescue group in New Jersey when he pocketed the proceeds from a 2017 fundraiser he ran on behalf of the organization, according to dozens of media reports. Santos was terse in his response to the accusations from Osthoff and Boll, but he was eager to talk about his non-existent pet charity during his campaign, when he claimed Friends of Pets United “saved” more than 2,500 cats and dogs over a four-year span and trapped and neutered more than 3,000 cats.

Santos’ lies are so numerous and so outrageous it’s difficult to keep track of them, and it’s doubtful he remembers all of them.

He claimed his mother worked at a financial firm at the World Trade Center and died in the 9/11 attacks, but Fatima Devolder left the US for Brazil in 1999 and never returned. She also never worked in finance. He claimed four of his employees died in the 2016 Pulse Nightclub shooting that claimed 49 lives. Santos never had any employees, his company didn’t exist, and he didn’t know anyone who died at the nightclub. He claimed ownership over an impressive and burgeoning real estate empire, but never owned any properties and owes more than $40,000 in back rent on a Queens apartment he shared with his sister for years. (His sister was also the recipient of a $30,000 FEMA handout and contributed a hefty $5,000 to his campaign, but still owes tens of thousands in back rent on the apartment, reports say.)

Rep._George_Santos_Official_Portrait_(cropped)
George Santos has refused to resign from congress despite calls from his own constituents, other lawmakers, figures in his own party and media commentators demanding his exit. Credit: Official congressional portrait

There are too many lies to list here, too much insanity to digest in one sitting, and it’s probably not good for the blood pressure to dwell on this weasel of a man allowing a homeless veteran’s service dog to die while pocketing the money raised for her surgery.

But we’re not done yet. We still don’t know how Santos bolstered his campaign with $750,000 of his own money, or where that cash came from. It’s not even clear if Santos is his real name, or if he’s actually a U.S. citizen, with some reports — like a New York Times story from last week — suggesting he may have married his former wife for citizenship.

While New York Republicans have been among the loudest voices to condemn Santos and demand he resign or be removed from congress, national party leaders haven’t made any moves to get rid of him — and have actually given him committee assignments — because they believe they need his vote in a slimmer-than-anticipated congressional majority.

As the lies keep piling up, the biggest question is: How long will this farce be allowed to drag on?

Sunday Cats: Should Kitties Be Allowed On Passenger Jets? Plus: Footballers Adopt Cat From Qatar

Happy Sunday, dear readers. Buddy’s apparently angry with me about something, because I found a copy of this on the printer:

Human Buddy 4 Sale
Listed under “For sale by owner.”

What could I have done to deserve this? And $16? Isn’t that a little low? It’s insulting! We’re gonna need to have a little chat, Buddy to Buddy.

Should Cats Be Allowed On Airplanes?

CNN’s Jacqueline Swartz has a column about the challenges of traveling when you’re afflicted with severe allergies. Swartz is thoughtful, isn’t resentful of cats and understands it’s on her — for the time being, at least — to prep for flights by taking allergy medication, but she also believes airlines can do more to accommodate people who are allergic to pets.

As a cat guy and someone who dealt with really bad cat and dog allergies in my childhood and teenage years, I can sympathize with Swartz’s plight, and I agree that airlines can do more.

Of course, by “Should cats be allowed on airplanes?” she’s really asking if cats should be allowed in the passenger cabin. Even if a feline’s snug in a carrier, tucked beneath its human’s seat and well-behaved during the flight, a relatively short six-hours from New York to LA can cause all kinds of havoc on the immune systems and sinuses of people who are ultra-sensitive to cat dander.

Cat on passenger flight
Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Putting cats in cargo compartments is not an answer, and neither is banning cats from flights. Sometimes flying with a cat is a necessity, whether you’re moving cross-country or planning to live abroad temporarily. But airlines are notorious for trying to extract every dime from passengers, whether it’s charging thousands for business class or up-selling regular seats as “premium coach” by offering a Louis Vuitton-branded pillow or whatever.

Perhaps some enterprising airline executive could build goodwill with travelers, earning extra business and loyalty along the way with an innovative and friendly way to handle animals. How much space could possibly be required for a quiet, closed-off, climate-controlled closet where six or eight cats in carriers can snooze during a flight? That would solve the allergy problem, make life easier for everyone and probably make traveling easier on cats too.

Dave the Cat has a new home in England

While a thoughtless PR official for Brazil’s national team drew the ire of animal lovers for the way he mishandled a cat during a press conference — an unforced error, since the cat wasn’t bothering anyone — some good is coming out of the World Cup for at least one feline.

Dave the Cat, a friendly stray befriended by England defenders Kyle Walker and John Stones, will be adopted by the players, who both suit up for the Premiere League’s Manchester City during normal club play.

Dave, a cream-colored tabby, won’t be reunited with his new pals right away. He’ll have to endure four months of quarantine first, as per the UK’s rules on bringing animals to the country, and then presumably he’ll be adopted by Walker, Stones or the entire team.

Brazil World Cup cat
An official with Brazil’s national team caught heat for the way he picked up and tossed a cat in Qatar. (Screengrab)

 

Cat in Qatar
Thankfully, the cat seemed unharmed.

What’s The Difference Between A Puma, Mountain Lion, Cougar, Panther and Catamount?

The puma goes by a lot of names. So many, in fact, that it holds the Guinness world record for the mammal with the most names, with more than 40 monikers in English alone.

Add the puma’s various appellations in Spanish and the indigenous tongues of south north America, and the large golden cat has probably had at least 100 names by a conservative estimate.

Cougar, panther, mountain lion, catamount, Florida panther, Carolina panther, ghost cat, gato monte, cuguacuarana, painter, screamer — they’re all names for puma concolor, a felid with the size of big cats in the panthera genus but genetics more closely related to non-roaring “small” cats, including felis catus.

Indeed, although pumas are famously capable of the wild cat “scream,” they’re able to purr just like house cats and their small- to medium-size wild relatives.

Why does the puma have so many monikers?

Mostly it’s because the adaptable, elusive feline has a vast range that historically covered almost the entirety of two continents:

Cougar_range_map_2010
Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Even today cougars exist in healthy numbers across most of South America and the western United States. They’re wanderers, with pockets of smaller populations in places like Florida and the midwest, and individual mountain lions have been spotted as far east as New York and Connecticut. (The New York region known as the Catskills, derived from “cat creek” in Dutch, was named after pumas when the area was part of their regular range.)

Throughout their history they’ve been familiar to a diverse group of human civilizations, societies, nations and peoples, from the Aztecs, Inca and Mayans, to the indigenous tribes of North America and the First Nations of Canada, to the inhabitants of modern-day countries like the US, Panama, Brazil, Mexico, Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Paraguay, Bolivia, Chile and Argentina.

Puma
A puma with her cubs. Credit: Nicolas Lagos

But the name confusion doesn’t just stem from the puma’s many monikers bestowed by people of different cultures across space and time. The puma is also one of three cat species that are regularly called panthers. The other two, jaguars (panthera onca) and leopards (panthera pardus), are true “big cats.” That means they’re members of the genus panthera and they can roar but not purr.

Pumas are easily distinguishable from the other two: They have smooth golden fur without adornments, while jaguars and leopards both have blotches called rosettes.

It’s difficult to tell jaguars from leopards, but the biggest giveaway is the fact that jaguars have solid dot-like markings within their rosettes while leopards do not. In addition, leopards have much longer tails than jaguars or pumas, as they need the counterbalance provided by their tails to help them climb trees and balance themselves on tree limbs.

Jaguars are excellent climbers as well, but they don’t need to be as adept at living off the ground — they are the apex predators in the Americas, while leopards coexist with lions and other large animals like Cape buffalo that present a danger to the big cats even if they’re not predators.

Which brings us to our last point: Our many-named friends, the pumas, may be big and they may look dangerous, but they’re not. There have been 27 humans killed by the elusive cats in more than a century in the U.S., according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, compared to about 3,000 deaths from dog bites over the same period. Between 30 and 50 people are killed by dogs each year.

Most confrontations between humans and pumas happen when the latter are threatened and cannot escape, or when a female is protecting her cubs.

So if you live in an area where you have a chance to see these beautiful cats, admire them and keep your own kitties indoors, but don’t freak out — the puma you see one second will be gone the next.

nature animal wilderness head
A captive puma. Credit: Pexels.com

Buddy the Cat Spotted With Jaguars In The Amazon

MATO GROSSO DO SUL, Brazil — Fisherman and naturalists working in the Pantanal have reported a strange sight in recent weeks — a domestic cat tagging along with jaguars.

The gray tabby was observed lounging on the banks of the Amazon, napping in a tree and struggling to take bites out of a caiman killed by a generous jaguar, witnesses reported.

“HQ, we’ve got something extraordinary here,” a naturalist was heard reporting over local radio channels. “A jaguarundi is — no, scratch that — a house cat! A house cat is following a group of jaguars from the river bank into the deeper jungle.”

The feline in question was identified as Buddy the Cat of New York after his concerned human reached out to local authorities and appealed to the Brazilian press for his safe return.

“He does this all the time,” the New York man, identified as Big Buddy, told an interviewer from Folha De S. Paulo. “First he broke into the tiger exhibit at the Bronx Zoo and tried to get the tigers to accept him, only to be claimed as a cub by one of the tigresses. It took weeks to convince the zoo to get him out, and when I got him home I had to bathe him five times just to get the stink of tiger saliva off his fur.

“Then somehow he made his way to Tanzania, where he wandered around the Maasai Steppe for a few weeks trying to get into a lion pride. He failed miserably in that endeavor, too. Now with the jaguars. It never ends.”

budd_and_jaguars
Buddy the Cat, known as Kinich Bajo to his jaguar friends, pictured here in the Amazon.

The exasperated New York man claimed responsibility for his failure to keep his “ridiculous” cat from adventuring, but also blamed the transportation industry for accommodating Buddy.

“Who the hell allows an unaccompanied cat to take a bus or board an airplane?” he asked. “How did he end up in first class, sipping champagne and buzzing the stewardesses for more turkey every five minutes? I’m told he got quite drunk and threatened to become combative if he didn’t get an entire fried turkey.”

Asked why his cat was obsessed with ingratiating himself to larger cat species, Big Buddy answered without hesitation.

“He’s a dumbass,” the human said. “Don’t get me wrong, he’s a very cute, very loving little guy, and often a good boy, but a dumbass all the same.”

Buddy’s human said the 10-pound domestic cat often tears around the house, ambushing animate and inanimate objects and practicing his roar, “but he sounds like Elmo singing a funk song in falsetto.”

jaguar-big-cat
Credit: Wikimedia Commons

As of press time, Buddy the Cat still hadn’t returned home. Jaguars are known to be extraordinarily laid back compared to other big cats, and a loosely-affiliated group of the South American apex predators seemed to tolerate the domestic kitty.

“I can’t leave now,” Buddy told reporters. “They’ve begun to accept me! It would be a violation of trust if I just left them to eat all this delicious food by themselves.”

Kinich Ahau, the local jaguar elder, said his extended family had taken a liking to Buddy.

“Have you heard of this turkey? We did not know of it. It is wondrous!” the great jaguar said. “Buddy, or Kinich Bajo as he is known to us, has also shared great wisdom in the form of new and comfortable napping techniques. On the first night, we observed him construct a soft bed of leaves for himself in the crook of a branch, and over the following suns and moons we have come to appreciate softer napping spots.”

Buddy had sparked a renaissance in jaguarian napping technique, Kinich Ahau said.

“Nobody naps like Buddy,” he said. “No one!”

buddyandbuds
Brothers: Xibalbá, left, with Kinich Bajo and Ek B’alam.

With the fond support of the Amazon’s jaguars, Buddy was set to undergo an ancient shamanistic ritual involving the imbibing of Ayahuasca, a powerful psychoactive brew said to reveal cosmological secrets to those who drink it as part of a spiritual ceremony.

“We would not have invited Kinich Bajo, or Buddy as you call him, to commune with the ancient B’alam (jaguar) spirits if we did not sense a deep spirituality and wisdom inside him,” said an elder jaguar shaman named Mike the Melanistic. “He has shown us the way in matters of snacking and napping, and now as we welcome him to our ethereal fraternity, we shall accompany him on his journey to the stars, where he will drink of the deep knowledge of our ancestors.”

Buddy himself told a reporter he was looking forward to the ceremony.

“It’ll grant me, like, awesome powers and shit,” he said. “I’ll be able to disappear in a puff of mist like the jaguars do, my muscles will get bigger and, like, I’ll be able to sniff out snacks from up to a mile away. Pretty cool, if you ask me.”

At press time the jaguar shaman elders said the ceremony does not, in fact, grant such powers.

Cat Alcatraz: Brazil’s Island of Abandoned Felines

In 2012, veterinarian Amélia Oliveira started a program to trap and neuter hundreds of cats who had been abandoned at Ilha Furtada, an island about 20 miles west of Rio de Janeiro.

Known as Ilha dos Gatos — island of the cats — the island was teeming with starving former pets and their feral offspring. Ilha Furtada has no natural source of drinking water, Oliveira said, and cats without hunting skills would quickly starve.

ilhafurtada3
Ilha Furtada became a curiosity for boaters and fishermen, and a sore spot for cat advocates trying to stop people from dumping animals there.

With the help of others, Oliveira began a program to end the misery on what’s been called “Cat Alcatraz”: The group managed to neuter more than 380 cats. Former pets were adopted out to new homes, but the ferals would need to remain on the island, so volunteers began feeding them and bringing fresh water on a regular schedule.

With the cooperation of local authorities, the group put up signage around the island and the coast warning that abandoning pets is illegal and asking people not to interfere with the island cats. There were plans for an official survey to quantify the feline population, an initiative to use cameras to dissuade people from dumping their pets on the island…

…and then came the Coronavirus pandemic.

Whatever gains Oliveira and company made over eight years have now been erased as Brazil — one of the countries hardest hit by the virus — has suffered more than 450,000 deaths officially (and likely much more uncounted) and an economy wrecked by waves of infection and lockdown.

ilhafurtado
A “feline shantytown” on Ilha Furtada.

Many owners could no longer afford to feed themselves or their cats while others died, leaving their cats at the mercy of relatives and landlords. Once again, people began abandoning their pets on Ilha Furtada.

“If you don’t take them, they’re going out to Island of the Cats,” people would tell shelter operators, a veterinarian told the Washington Post’s Terrence McKoy.

While the feline population of Furtada Island increased, resources dwindled as lockdowns prevented volunteers from delivering food and water as often as they had in the past.

Now the island has “the appearance of a feline shantytown,” dotted with dilapidated and hastily-constructed shelters for its resident felines.

I recommend reading the entire story, one of just a few highlighting the toll the pandemic has taken on pets.

Brazil Cat Island
Volunteers from Animal Heart Protectors fill a dispenser with food for cats on Furtada Island, popularly known as “Island of the Cats,” in Mangaratiba, Brazil, Credit: AP/Silvia Izquierdo)