As poverty bites, Lebanese give up their pets

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Rescued cats are pictured at the Animals Lebanon NGO's shelter in the Lebanese capital Beirut, on April 28, 2021. (AFP / JOSEPH EID)
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Companion Animal Coordinator at Animals Lebanon NGO Rim Sadek pats a rescued cat at the NGO's shelter in Beirut on April 28, 2021. ( AFP / JOSEPH EID)
Updated 14 May 2021

As poverty bites, Lebanese give up their pets

BEIRUT: Ibrahim Al-Dika had raised his Belgian shepherd Lexi since she was a tiny pup, but then Lebanon’s economic crisis made him jobless and he had to sell her to repay a bank loan.
“It got to the point where I was no longer able to feed her, the bank was pressuring me, and I hit a wall,” said the 26-year-old, devastated beside her empty kennel outside his Beirut home.
“I didn’t sell a car or a telephone. I sold a soul. I sold a part of me.”
Can you afford to keep your pet? Animal activists say this is a dilemma a growing number of Lebanese owners are facing as their purchasing power nosedives.
Tens of thousands of Lebanese have lost their jobs or seen their income reduced to a pittance due to Lebanon’s worst economic crisis in decades.
As many families struggle to stay afloat, activists say increasingly more pet owners are asking for help to feed or re-home their animals, selling them, or in the worst cases abandoning them.
Dika, after losing his father to illness, was laid off last year when his employer, a fashion retailer, closed shop, affecting his ability to support his mother and brother.
He had spent around a year caring for Lexi, and training her to sit, heel, give him the paw, and play dead.
But when the bank started calling, he saw no option other than to sell her.
He drove over a few days later to check in on her, and Lexi thought he had come to take her home.
“She leapt straight into my car,” he said. “She broke my heart the way she looked at me.”
With more than half of Lebanon’s population now living in poverty, many Lebanese have to depend on non-governmental organizations to get by — even to feed their pets.
Amal Ramadan, 39, said she used to make donations to animal charity PAW. But these days it is her receiving free bags of food from them for her pit bull and bichon, Nelly and Fluffy.
Her monthly salary working in car rental, once equivalent to $1,000, is now worth just $120 because of the Lebanese currency’s sharp devaluation.
“I don’t have enough income to feed my pets,” said the widowed mother of two, who has taken on extra work to make ends meet.
Ramadan said she would rather starve than give up Nelly and Fluffy.
But as the price of imported pet food, meat and veterinary care soars, activists said some other animals have not been so lucky.
At the Woof N’ Wags dog shelter in southern Lebanon, volunteer Ghada Al-Khateeb watched a female dog lying on her side, breathing weakly under a grubby white coat, after she was rescued from the local trash dump.
She said pet abandonments were on the rise.
“Nobody can afford to feed their dogs anymore,” said the 32-year-old hairdresser and divorced mother of twins.
“When they come to hand them over, they tell us: ‘our children are our priority’.”
The shelter’s founder, 28-year-old Joe Okdjian, said he was in desperate need of more donations.
“Sometimes they go a day or two without food,” he said of the 90 dogs already in his care.
As Lebanon’s economy crumbles, people’s fates are mirrored in those of their pets.
In the capital, rescuer Soraya Mouawad said two or three people a week were asking her to re-home their animal.
They say they are emigrating, moving into a smaller home, or can no longer look after them “for personal reasons,” said the founder of Animals Pride and Freedom.
Many young professionals have fled Lebanon since 2019, especially after a massive explosion in Beirut last summer killed more than 200 people and ravaged large parts of the city.
Dedicated activists are working to ensure dozens of pets can also emigrate.
In one room at the Animals Lebanon shelter in Beirut, two cats lay in their beds.
One of them, Hips, was hit by a car in February and is paralyzed below the waist. The other, Edward, was dumped in a box in the street in November and appears to suffer from an allergy.
Soon, the charity said, Hips and Edward are set to travel to a new life in the United States.


Flamethrower used to torch Pan-African flag flying on pole in Florida

Updated 03 July 2022

Flamethrower used to torch Pan-African flag flying on pole in Florida

  • Group likens attack to the massacre of 10 Black people at a supermarket Buffalo, New York in May

ST. PETERSBURG, Florida: A person using a flamethrower set fire Saturday to a Pan-African flag flying on a pole outside the headquarters of the Uhuru Movement, a Black international socialist group based in Florida.
Security video released by the group shows the driver of a white Honda sedan pulling up outside the group’s St. Petersburg headquarters, removing a flamethrower from the trunk and shooting a tower of fire at the flag flying about 30 feet (9 meters) above the ground. The group says the man stopped when a worker inside the building yelled at him. The video shows him putting the flamethrower back in the trunk and then driving away. A photo supplied by the group shows the flag with a large hole.
St. Petersburg police said they are investigating the fire and are working to identify a suspect.
The Uhuru Movement is part of the African People’s Socialist Party, which says it is “uniting African people as one people for liberation, social justice, self-reliance and economic development.”
Akile Akai, the group’s director of agitation and propaganda, said the attack is in the same vein as the May killing of 10 Black people at a Buffalo, New York, supermarket. Police say the arrested suspect in the Buffalo massacre is a white nationalist.
Akai said such attacks are caused by the decline of a “social system and facade of normalcy based on oppression, colonialism and exploitation.”

 

 


3-year-old boy dies after fall from 29th floor NYC apartment

Updated 03 July 2022

3-year-old boy dies after fall from 29th floor NYC apartment

  • Officers found the injured toddler lying on a 3rd floor scaffolding after receiving a 911 call at 11:09 a.m

NEW YORK: A 3-year-old boy died after falling from a 29th floor balcony of a New York City apartment building on Saturday morning, police said a preliminary investigation shows.
Officers found the injured toddler lying on a 3rd floor scaffolding after receiving a 911 call at 11:09 a.m. The boy was taken to a nearby hospital where he was pronounced dead.
“We believe the child exited through a window, but exactly how that occurred is under investigation at the time,” a police spokesperson told The Associated Press. The apartment is located in the Taino Towers residential complex in Harlem.
New York City law requires owners of buildings with three or more apartments to install window guards if a child age 10 years or younger lives there or if a tenant or occupant requests them. It’s unclear whether window guards were installed in this particular apartment.
The spokesperson said the child’s death is under “active investigation” and police are speaking with two individuals who were inside the apartment when the boy fell.
Nidia Cordero, who lives on the 34th floor of the building, told the New York Post that she suddenly heard what she believes was the mother of the child screaming.
“And I looked,” she said, “and the baby was in the scaffolding.”
Richard Linares told the New York Daily News he was outside the apartment complex when the toddler fell.
“We heard a big bang,” he said. “My boy that was here ran to the front. He ran up the scaffold to find the baby. The baby was still crying and breathing when he got there.”
He later added: “By the time the paramedics brought him down, they had a towel over his face.”
Tanjelyn Castro, a neighbor, described to the Daily News a frantic scene as police and residents tried to reach the child.
“Everybody that was outside was running, climbing,” she said. “Every man you saw was trying to get to the scaffold. It was a whole bunch of emotion.”


Rock star Randy Bachman reunited with beloved stolen guitar

Updated 01 July 2022

Rock star Randy Bachman reunited with beloved stolen guitar

  • Bachman said all guitars are special, but the orange 1957 Gretsch 6120 Chet Atkins he bought as a teenager was exceptional
  • When it was stolen from the Toronto hotel in 1977, “I cried for three days. It was part of me,” he said

TOKYO: Canadian rock legend Randy Bachman’s long search came to an end Friday when he was reunited in Tokyo with a cherished guitar 45 years after it was stolen from a Toronto hotel.
“My girlfriend is right there,” said Bachman, 78, a former member of The Guess Who and Bachman-Turner Overdrive, as the Gretsch guitar on which he wrote “American Woman” and other hits was handed to him by a Japanese musician who had bought it at a Tokyo store in 2014 without knowing its history.
He said all guitars are special, but the orange 1957 Gretsch 6120 Chet Atkins he bought as a teenager was exceptional. He worked at multiple jobs to save money to buy the $400 guitar, his first purchase of an expensive instrument, he said.
“It made my whole life. It was my hammer and a tool to write songs, make music and make money,” Bachman told AP before the handover at the Canadian Embassy in Tokyo.
When it was stolen from the Toronto hotel in 1977, “I cried for three days. It was part of me,” he said. “It was very, very upsetting.” He ended up buying about 300 guitars in unsuccessful attempts to replace it, he said.
Bachman talked frequently about the missing guitar in interviews and on radio shows, and more recently on YouTube programs on which he performed with his son, Tal.
In 2020, a Canadian fan who heard the story of the guitar launched an Internet search and successfully located it in Tokyo within two weeks.
The fan, William Long, used a small spot in the guitar’s wood grain visible in old images as a “digital fingerprint” and tracked the instrument down to a vintage guitar shop site in Tokyo. A further search led him to a YouTube video showing the instrument being played by a Japanese musician, TAKESHI, in December 2019.
After receiving the news from Long, Bachman contacted TAKESHI immediately, and recognized the guitar in a video chat they had.
“I was crying,” Bachman said. “The guitar almost spoke to me over the video, like, ‘Hey, I’m coming home.’”
TAKESHI agreed to give it to Bachman in exchange for one that was very similar. So Bachman searched and found the guitar’s “sister” — made during the same week, with a close serial number, no modifications and no repairs.
“To find my guitar again was a miracle, to find its twin sister was another miracle,” Bachman said.
TAKESHI said he decided to return the guitar because as a guitar player he could imagine how much Bachman missed it.
“I owned it and played it for only eight years and I’m extremely sad to return it now. But he has been feeling sad for 46 years, and it’s time for someone else to be sad,” TAKESHI said. “I felt sorry for this legend.”
He said he felt good after returning the guitar to its rightful owner, but it may take time for him to love his new Gretsch as much as that one.
“It’s a guitar, and it has a soul. So even if it has the same shape, I cannot say for sure if I can love a replacement the same way I loved this one,” he said. “There is no doubt Randy thought of me and searched hard (for the replacement), so I will gradually develop an affection for it, but it may take time.”
Bachman said he and TAKESHI are now like brothers who own guitars that are “twin sisters.” They are participating in a documentary about the guitar on which they plan to perform a song, “Lost and Found” together.
They also performed several songs at Friday’s handover, including “American Woman.”
Bachman said he will lock the guitar up in his home so he will never lose it again. “I am never ever going to take it out of my house again,” he said.


Biden touts Switzerland — woops, Sweden — in NATO expansion

Updated 30 June 2022

Biden touts Switzerland — woops, Sweden — in NATO expansion

  • Quickly realizing his stumble, Biden said: ‘Switzerland, my goodness. I’m getting really anxious here about expanding NATO,’ he joked, before adding for the record: ‘Sweden’
  • Biden, 79, has long been known for his verbal gaffes during a political career spanning half a century

MADRID: NATO’s latest expansion momentarily got really interesting with even Switzerland about to join — at least for a second in a Joe Biden verbal slip Thursday.
At a press conference marking the end of the NATO summit in Madrid, the US president recounted the behind-the-scenes talks putting militarily non-aligned Finland and Sweden on track to join the Western alliance in a major rebuff to Russia.
Except he misspoke, saying there was a plan to call the leader of famously neutral Switzerland about joining.
Quickly realizing his stumble, Biden said: “Switzerland, my goodness.”
“I’m getting really anxious here about expanding NATO,” he joked, before adding for the record: “Sweden.”
Biden, 79, has long been known for his verbal gaffes during a political career spanning half a century.


Airbnb makes ban on parties permanent

Updated 30 June 2022

Airbnb makes ban on parties permanent

  • In 2019, Airbnb began imposing much stricter limits, starting with a global ban on so-called “party houses”

LONDON: Airbnb Inc. said on Tuesday it will make permanent its ban on parties in homes listed on its platform after seeing a sharp drop in reports of unauthorized gatherings since the prohibition was put in place in August 2020.
The company announced seeing a 44 percent year-after-year drop in the rate of party reports since implementing the policy.
This comes after the San Francisco-based company introduced and extended the party ban to halt the spread of COVID-19 infections. Now the company wants to make the ban permanent as the summer travel season begins.
“This is an issue where I don’t know if I’d say there’s a finish line,” said Ben Breit, a spokesperson for the company, adding that Airbnb will keep working to address the issue.
The company said it will also remove its 16-person limit, allowing larger homes listed on the platform to be booked to full occupancy.
In 2019, Airbnb began imposing much stricter limits, starting with a global ban on so-called “party houses” or listings that create persistent neighborhood nuisance.
Airbnb has also updated its policies considering the pandemic, removing both the “event friendly” search filter and “parties and events allowed” house rules.
More than 6,600 guests and some hosts were suspended in 2021 for attempting to violate the party ban, the company said.
In May 2022, the company reported revenue was up 70 percent from the previous year bringing in $1.5 billion in the first quarter of 2022. The company also projected revenue to be above market estimates for the second quarter of the year, expecting to bring in between $2.03 billion and $2.13 billion.