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Indonesian Island Bawean Contains 1 of World’s Rarest Pig Populations, Researcher Says

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Indonesian Island Bawean Contains 1 of World's Rarest Pig Populations, Researcher Says

By day, they rest in the surviving scraps of rainforest on their remote tropical-island home. By night, they grub around for tubers and roots in the forest gardens of local communities, dodging guard dogs and the occasional angry farmer with a gun.

Now, the diminutive warty pigs of Bawean, a small island in Indonesia’s Java Sea, have a new claim to fame: they may be the rarest pigs in the world.

The warty pigs of Southeast Asia come in many shapes and sizes – and, it seems, many species too. Often dismissed as little more than pests, they are receiving a taxonomic makeover, with a dozen distinct species now acknowledged, and others likely to emerge.

The latest is the Bawean warty pig (Sus blouchi), a dwarf relative of the Javan warty pig (Sus verrucosus), but now claimed to be a species in its own right.

It is smaller than its cousin and has three scent lobes on the back of its front legs rather than the four found on the Javan pig, says its chief champion, Dutch researcher Mark Rademaker of the VHL University of Applied Sciences in Leeuwarden, the Netherlands.

Rademaker published the first ever ecological study of the animal this week, based on records from 100 camera traps scattered across its tiny home – a volcanic island just 15 kilometres across. He estimates the pig’s population to number about 230 individuals.

Pig protection

Much of the centre of Bawean Island was declared protected in the 1930s. But it is far from clear that this has helped the warty pigs, which find most of their food by foraging for roots and tubers among the forest gardens of local villagers.

“Community forests appear to be very important to the pigs. They prefer semi-open cultivated habitat,” says Rademaker. The small size of the island suggests that the pig’s numbers may never have been much higher than today, he says.

Glimpse of a rare pig

Bawean Endemik Konservasi Initiatif

Nonetheless, he says that the animal, which currently has no protection under Indonesian law, qualifies for endangered status at the International Union for Conservation of Nature, where Rademaker is a member of the wild-pig specialist group.

But the warty pigs may not be cute enough to bring many TV camera crews rushing to Bawean. “The males have three pairs of enormous warts on each side of their face,” says Johanna Rode-Margono, a wild-pig specialist from the North of England Zoological Society in the UK.

The pigs are part of an unlikely menagerie of endemic species on the island, which has been separated from neighbouring islands for 10,000 years. Others include a critically endangered deer, a subspecies of crested serpent eagle thought to be down to its last 30 pairs, and a spotted wood owl.

Rademaker and Rode-Margono have set up a conservation project, the Bawean Endemics Conservation Initative, to document and protect the island’s rarities.

Entrepreneur, contributor, writer, and editor of Sostre News. With a powerful new bi-lingual speaking generation by his side, Sostre News is becoming the preferred site for the latest in Politics, Entertainment, Sports, Culture, Tech, Breaking and World News.

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80 Million Stimulus Check Direct Deposits Have Been Processed. When Will They Arrive?

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80 Million Stimulus Check Direct Deposits Have Been Processed. When Will They Arrive?

Americans will start to see their stimulus payments this week, a centerpiece of the $2.2 trillion rescue package meant to provide a buffer against the coronavirus pandemic that’s shuttered much of the U.S. economy.

The Internal Revenue Service has begun sending $1,200 payments to middle and lower income adults, plus $500 for their minor children, though it could take until September for every eligible person to get the money.
The first payments “should be deposited directly into individuals’ bank accounts; the precise date you will see payments in your account depends on how long individual banks typically take to process direct deposits,” according to a press release from House Ways and Means Committee Republicans.

The IRS will first send the money to individuals for whom the agency has direct deposit information. The remainder will be mailed as checks. That process is expected to begin April 20 but could take until the fall to complete.

The IRS processed more than 80 million payments on Friday that should be available in bank accounts early this week, Sunita Lough, the IRS deputy commissioner for services and enforcement, said in a video conference Monday.

Payments will be made first to those earning the least.

The IRS has launched a tool for non-tax filers, such as those who had income under $12,200 last year and weren’t required to file a federal return, to enter direct deposit information to get their payments.

The agency plans to have a second website up by April 17 that will show people the status of their payments, including the date the money is scheduled to be deposited or mailed. That tool will also let people who’ve typically gotten their tax refund in the mail to provide their bank account details to get their stimulus payment more quickly.

The IRS is using information from 2018 and 2019 tax returns to process the payments. It says taxpayers who’ve yet to file a return this year should do so as soon as possible, and elect to receive the refund via a direct deposit. The information can then be used to distribute the stimulus payments. Social Security and disability recipients will receive their payments automatically.

The tax deadline was extended to July 15 from April 15 to give people more time to file and pay during the pandemic.

Taxpayers who don’t need extra time and who expect to get a stimulus payment should file as soon as possible so the agency has their most up-to-date details on file, said Christina Taylor, head of operations for Credit Karma Tax.

“The quicker, the better,” she said.

Americans earning $75,000 or less, or $150,000 and below as a couple, are eligible for the full $1,200 payout per adult, plus $500 for each child under 17. Those amounts are reduced for people with higher incomes, and people who make $99,000 or more in earnings (or $198,000 for a couple) get nothing, even if they have children. Individuals must have a Social Security number to receive a payment.

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A Case of Hantavirus Has Been Reported in China. Here’s Why You Shouldn’t Worry.

A man who died in China Monday reportedly tested positive for a hantavirus, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you should worry another pandemic is coming…

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A Case of Hantavirus Has Been Reported in China. Here's Why You Shouldn't Worry.

A man who died in China Monday reportedly tested positive for a hantavirus, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you should worry another pandemic is coming.

Hantaviruses are a family of virus that spread through rodents, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In Yunnan Province, a man died on his way back to Shandong Province, according to Global Times, an English-language Chinese news outlet.

“He was tested positive for #hantavirus. Other 32 people on bus were tested,” the news outlet tweeted.

The tweet, sent amid a pandemic caused by a new coronavirus, has been shared more than 15,000 times.

Though countries across the globe are on high alert due to uncertainty around the coronavirus, there is no indication that the hantavirus poses a global public health threat.

According to the CDC, hantavirus cases are rare, and they spread as a result of close contact with rodent urine, droppings or saliva.

Certain kinds of rats and mice in the United States can carry the virus, which is transmitted when someone breathes in contaminated air.

“The hantaviruses that cause human illness in the United States cannot be transmitted from one person to another,” the CDC says on its website. Rare cases in Chile and Argentina have seen person-to-person transmission when a person is in close contact with someone sickened by a type of hantavirus called Andes virus, the CDC says.

In the U.S., the virus can cause hantavirus pulmonary syndrome, a severe respiratory disease that can be fatal. Symptoms include fatigue, fever, muscle aches, headaches, dizziness, chills, and abdominal problems. Coughing and shortness of breath can occur later in the disease as the lungs fill with liquid, the CDC says,

Hemorrhagic fever with renal syndrome, found mostly in Europe and Asia, can also occur, which causes pain, fever, chills, nausea, and blurred vision, the CDC says. More serious symptoms include acute kidney failure.

Cases in the United States have typically been concentrated in the western and southwestern states.

From 1993 to 2017, there were only 728 confirmed hantavirus cases in the United States, with most being non-fatal, according to CDC data. In comparison, since late January, when the first known coronavirus case was identified in the U.S., there have been 46,805 confirmed coronavirus cases nationwide, according to a Johns Hopkins University tracker.

In May 1993, a hantavirus outbreak occurred in an area between Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado and Utah. A 2012 outbreak in Yosemite sickened 10 people. In seven states, 17 people were infected in a 2017 outbreak.

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Amber Guyger Guilty of Murdering Black Neighbor Botham Jean in His Own Home

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Amber Guyger Guilty of Murdering Black Neighbor Botham Jean in His Own Home

A former police officer who argued she had a right to use lethal force when she killed an innocent man after mistakenly entering his apartment has been convicted of murder.

Amber Guyger faces a lengthy prison sentence after a jury found her guilty of the murder of Botham Jean in Dallas on 6 September last year – a verdict Jean family attorneys hailed as a significant moment in the battle to hold police accountable.

Guyger is white. Jean was black.

Standing in a packed hallway outside the courtroom in Dallas, attorney Lee Merritt told reporters the ruling was “a huge victory not only for the family of Botham Jean, but as his mother, Allison, told us a moment ago, this is a victory for black people in America”.

He said: “It is a signal that the tide is going to change here, [that] police officers are going to be held accountable for their actions.”

Merritt said the community should not have had to wait “on pins and needles” for the conviction of someone who killed a man who was “completely non-aggressive, sitting at home eating a bowl of ice cream and someone barged into his home and shot him to death.”

Botham Jean’s mother Allison Jean in court after the verdict was read out. Photograph: Tom Fox/AP

He added: “This should have been automatic, anticipated, expected, but it is extremely rare. From this day forward we are pushing so that it’s not rare.”

The jury began deliberating on Monday afternoon and reached a verdict on Tuesday morning, with sentencing to follow. Guyger pleaded not guilty. In Texas, murder usually carries a sentence of five to 99 years in prison but judge Tammy Kemp had allowed the jury to consider convicting the lesser charge of manslaughter.

Jurors, however, decided that Guyger had committed murder.

Ben Crump, a lawyer for the Jean family, told NBC local news, said: “Thank God, finally America saw the humanity of an unarmed black man who was killed in an unjustifiable way and they returned a verdict that is befitting the criminal, cowardly act of this woman, killing Botham Jean in his own apartment.”

Crump added in a press conference: “This is a precedent now that will go forth across America for equal justice for everybody.”

He said the incident underscores the need for better police training and that the verdict was for “so many unarmed black and brown human beings all across America” who died in interactions with police.

Amber Guyger Guilty of Murdering Black Neighbor Botham Jean in His Own Home

Jean, a 26-year-old accountant, had settled down on his couch to watch television and eat some vanilla ice cream when Guyger entered his home. She claimed she mistakenly believed it was hers and thought he was an intruder.

Kemp controversially allowed the jury to consider whether Guyger’s conduct could be justified under Texas’s so-called “castle doctrine”. Expanded in 2007, it is comparable to “stand your ground” laws in other states and allows a civilian to use deadly force if he or she “reasonably believes … [it] is immediately necessary” in certain circumstances, such as during a burglary.

Though Jean was on his own property and Guyger the intruder, seemingly inverting the intent of the law, her attorneys argued she made a “mistake of fact” when she went to the wrong home, making her subsequent conduct reasonable. They said she was tired after a long day and many other residents had found themselves at the wrong unit in the past because signage was unclear and floors looked similar.

“She made a series of horrible mistakes,” Toby Shook, one of her attorneys, said. “The law recognises that mistakes can be made.”

Prosecutors said it was “absurd” to believe the 31-year-old’s “commando-style” behaviour was reasonable, especially given her training as a police officer and status as a more than four-year veteran of the department.

They noted that Guyger failed to retreat and call for back-up, questioned the veracity of her claim to have given Jean verbal commands before firing, and pointed out that after calling 911 she appeared to provide only limited medical assistance as Jean, who was from St Lucia, lay dying from a chest wound.

Rather than feeling tired, prosecutors alleged, she was distracted because she had been “sexting” a colleague. Jean had a bright red mat in front of his door that ought to have been impossible to miss.

Guyger – who was fired by Dallas police – wept while testifying.

“I was scared this person inside my apartment was going to kill me,” she said. “I ask God for forgiveness and I hate myself every single day. I feel like a piece of crap.”

In closing statements, Jason Fine, a prosecutor, called most of her testimony “garbage”. Fine said Jean did not act in a threatening manner, but started to stand up “like a normal reasonable person who has somebody busting into his home, and before he can even get up he is shot dead in his own home.

“Killing this man was unnecessary and unreasonable from start to finish.”

Special security measures were put in place during the trial. Jean’s death sparked protests and demands for justice from activists who cited it as one of a long line of racially charged shootings by a police department that lacks accountability. Though she was off duty, Guyger was still in uniform and used her service weapon when she encountered Jean.

Critics of the department have also claimed Guyger was given preferential treatment. It emerged during the trial that the head of the Dallas Police Association told another officer to shut off an audio-visual recording system inside a patrol car so that he could have a private conversation with Guyger soon after the shooting.

She still faces a civil lawsuit brought by Jean’s family.

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