Seychelles swaps debt for groundbreaking marine protection

A box of nursery-grown coral is handed to a diver off the coast of Praslin, where coral is being reintroduced, in the Seychelles. The tiny island nation is announcing a pioneering marine conservation plan as part of a debt swap deal with creditors. (AP Photo)
Updated 22 February 2018
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Seychelles swaps debt for groundbreaking marine protection

CURIEUSE ISLAND, Seychelles: With deep blue waters, white sand beaches and rich marine life, the tiny island nation of the Seychelles is announcing a pioneering marine conservation plan as part of a debt swap deal with creditors.
In an agreement described as the first of its kind, the Indian Ocean nation popular with tourists is designating nearly a third of its waters as protected areas, aiming to ensure the longevity of its unique biodiversity.
The archipelago’s 115 islands have been isolated by continental land masses for millions of years. The Aldabra atoll, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is home to the world’s largest population of giant tortoises, critically endangered sea cows and spawning grounds for a number of rare species. But overfishing has hurt.
The government on Wednesday signed a bill restricting nearly all human activity in the waters around Aldabra and overall setting aside more than 210,000 square kilometers (81,081 sq. miles) as protected areas. The areas around Aldabra will ban all extractive uses such as fishing and petroleum exploration; the rest will be restricted to sustainable practices. The plan will be completed by 2021.
“A great honor and privilege,” the country’s environment minister, Didier Dogley, said at the signing.
The deal with the country’s creditors was brokered by US-based The Nature Conservancy and involved a $1 million grant by the foundation of actor Leonardo DiCaprio.
At the height of its debt crisis in the late 2000s, the Seychelles was one of the world’s top debt-ridden countries. Its sovereign debt peaked at nearly $1 billion, according to the World Bank. Today the debt stands at less than half of that, according to the finance ministry.
The deal allows for a certain amount of money to be repaid into a trust fund to support conservation-related projects, organizers said.
While welcoming the deal, the CEO of the Seychelles National Parks Authority warned that certain threats to the Seychelles remain beyond control. “Like climate, for example,” Flavien Joubert said.
The new agreement has worried some who say their livelihoods will be severely restricted.
“If you protect everywhere, where (will) we go fishing?” Elvis Simon Dingwall said. He echoed others who said they have to bear the brunt of the government’s past economic failures.
The head of the Seychelles’ state-owned oil and gas exploration entity, Patrick Joseph, said Petro Seychelles initially was resistant to the plan but now is cautiously optimistic.
“Provided this is done properly, we choose the right companies and we do a proper impact assessment before we drill, I feel like the country will definitely benefit from oil and gas resources,” Joseph said.
The Seychellois government is already benefiting from the confidence the deal has inspired in its creditors, with a separate bond deal now being finalized with the World Bank to help finance a transition to sustainable fisheries.
“The Seychelles is leading the way in terms of how it is going to manage its ocean territory ... in a sustainable fashion,” said Benoit Bosquet, the World Bank’s practice manager for environment and natural resources.


Man who killed newlywed during robbery executed in Texas

Alvin Braziel appears in a booking photo provided by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice in Austin, Texas, US, December 10, 2018. (REUTERS)
Updated 9 min 52 sec ago
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Man who killed newlywed during robbery executed in Texas

  • The Whites, who had only been married 10 days, didn’t have any money on them but told Braziel they could get him some and they started walking back to their truck

HUNTSVILLE, Texas: A Texas inmate was executed Tuesday evening for fatally shooting a newlywed during a robbery more than 25 years ago.
Alvin Braziel Jr., 43, received lethal injection at the state penitentiary in Huntsville for the 1993 slaying of 27-year-old Douglas White, who was attacked as he and his wife walked on a jogging trail.
Braziel became the 24th inmate put to death this year in the US and the 13th executed in Texas, the nation’s busiest capital punishment state. He will be the last Texas inmate executed this year.
The execution was delayed about 90 minutes after the six-hour window defined by the warrant began at 6 p.m. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals rejected a last-minute appeal from Braziel’s attorneys.
As Douglas and Lora White walked along a community college jogging trail in the Dallas suburb of Mesquite, Braziel jumped out from behind some bushes with a pistol in his hand and demanded money.
The Whites, who had only been married 10 days, didn’t have any money on them but told Braziel they could get him some and they started walking back to their truck. But Braziel became angry with the couple and ordered them to the ground.
“Doug ... was praying, asked God to forgive him and Lora their sins because they both knew that this was it,” said Michael Bradshaw, the lead detective on the case for Mesquite police. “The last thing Doug said before Braziel fired the first round, he said, ‘Please God, don’t let him hurt Lora.’“
Braziel shot White once in the head and once in his heart.
Bradshaw said he believes Braziel would have also shot then-24-year-old Lora White but his gun malfunctioned. Braziel instead took her to bushy area near the trail and sexually assaulted her.
Douglas White’s murder was featured on the television show “America’s Most Wanted” and a $20,000 reward was raised by the chiropractic college he had worked for as an electrician. Bradshaw said more than 40 potential suspects were interrogated and had their blood drawn for testing.
But White’s murder remained unsolved for over seven years.
“I really didn’t know that I would ever be able to solve it. But I really did not give up hope,” said Bradshaw, 63, who retired from Mesquite police in 2012.
Braziel was eventually tied to the killing in 2001 after he was imprisoned for sexual assault in an unrelated case and his DNA matched evidence from Lora White’s assault.
At his trial, Braziel said he wasn’t near the college during the killing.
Braziel’s attorneys didn’t immediately reply to emails and calls seeking comment on Tuesday.
Last week, his lawyers asked the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals to stop his execution, arguing in part he should not receive lethal injection because he is intellectually disabled.
The Supreme Court held in 2002 that people convicted of murder who are intellectually disabled cannot be executed.
Braziel’s attorneys later withdrew their request.
Courts had previously turned down Braziel’s appeals that have focused on claims of mental illness and that he had suffered a childhood brain injury, saying Braziel refused to be examined by a mental health expert during his trial and that his family declined to help his defense attorneys obtain evidence of any mental health problems in Braziel’s family.
His attorneys also filed a last-minute appeal Tuesday, arguing that an emotional outburst at the 2001 murder trial from Lora White was unfairly elicited by prosecutors when she was shown on the witness stand a photo of her husband’s autopsied body.
Bradshaw said he still keeps in contact with Lora White and that she started a new life and is doing well.
“Lora wants it known that she’s prayed for Alvin Braziel and his family,” Bradshaw said.