India pollution watchdog fines Delhi over toxic smog

Smog levels spike during winter in northern India, when air quality often eclipses the World Health Organization’s safe levels. (AFP)
Updated 04 December 2018
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India pollution watchdog fines Delhi over toxic smog

  • Each winter, Delhi chokes through haze so extreme that levels of airborne pollutants routinely eclipse safe limits by more than 30 times
  • An estimated 1.1 million Indians die prematurely from air pollution every year

NEW DELHI: India's environmental watchdog has slapped New Delhi's government with a $3.5 million fine for failing to enforce rules to reduce smog in the world's most polluted major city, officials said Tuesday.
The National Green Tribunal penalised the capital administration for its lack of oversight after it emerged some polluting industries were still burning harmful waste in the open.
The tribunal, a national body tasked with ruling on environmental matters, had been hearing a plea from Delhi residents complaining about factories flouting laws on trash fires.
It said the Delhi government needed to instruct the court on how it would proceed with tackling the annual crisis that plagues the capital city of 20 million.
Each winter, Delhi chokes through haze so extreme that levels of airborne pollutants routinely eclipse safe limits by more than 30 times.
An estimated 1.1 million Indians die prematurely from air pollution every year.
The US embassy website in Delhi showed the level of harmful airborne particles hit 290 on Tuesday -- nearly 12 times World Health Organization's safe limits.
Delhi, which has shut down power plants and banned heavy trucks from the city in a bid to curb smog, has accused other states of not playing their part.
In particular, the capital has blamed governments in neighbouring Punjab and Haryana for crop fires that burn every year, sending smoke eastward.
Acrid smoke from these fires mingles with pollutants from cars, factories and construction sites in Delhi to create a lethal and persistent smog cocktail.
Delhi is not the first state to be slapped with a fine by the green watchdog, with West Bengal penalised roughly $700,000 for failure to clear its smoggy skies.
Delhi was among 14 Indian cities that figured in a list of the 20 most polluted cities across the globe this year issued by the WHO.


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 12 December 2018
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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.