Times of Malta

General, sporting, and business news for Malta and the surrounding region
  1. People living in homes with water damage, damp floors or visible mold are more likely to have chronic sinus problems and bronchitis, as well as allergies, asthma and other breathing disorders, according to a large study from Sweden. About 11 percent of homes in the study had visible signs of dampness - and the more signs were present, the higher the likelihood that residents had nose, throat and lung-related health problems, according to the report in Clinical and Experimental Allergy. “A lot of papers show an association between asthma-related symptoms and building dampness. What’s new is the association between chronic inflammation and building dampness,” said senior study author Christer Janson of Uppsala University. “This is an important finding as chronic inflammation is quite a common condition with a very negative side effect on quality of life,” he told Reuters Health by email. “We were surprised that the association with building dampness was so strong.” The researchers analyzed data from more than 26,000 adults in four Swedish cities who responded to a questionnaire about respiratory symptoms, smoking, education and environmental exposures. In particular, the study...
  2. US retailer Michael Kors has agreed to buy luxury shoemaker Jimmy Choo for $1.2 billion, snapping up a British brand launched in the east end of London and made famous by celebrity fans including Princess Diana. Founded in the 1990s by bespoke shoemaker Jimmy Choo, the brand is known for its stiletto heals and accessories and sells in cities from London to Paris, New York and Tokyo. It put itself up for sale in April after its majority owner JAB signalled its intention to focus on consumer goods. At 230 pence in cash per share, the group is receiving a premium of 36.5 per cent to its share price before the sale process was announced. Michael Kors, once the hottest name in affordable luxury with a hugely popular handbag range, has been struggling in recent quarters with declining same-store sales as fewer people visit its shops. In response, it has expanded into dresses and menswear, and invested in its online business. It said Jimmy Choo would continue to operate as it does today, under its existing management team. "Jimmy Choo is an iconic premier luxury brand that offers distinctive footwear, handbags and other accessories," said Michael Kors, honorary chairman and chief...
  3. Europe's economics commissioner, Pierre Moscovici, said today he was confident Greece was "turning a page" from economic crisis and would successfully conclude a bailout programme which expires in August 2018. But Moscovici, who was visiting Athens, said the crisis-hit country was at a crucial juncture and urged Greece to keep up economic reforms. He also said he was confident Greece could return to bond markets at "logical yields". "Returning to the markets is an important first step," Moscovici told reporters. Greece concluded a bailout review last month, paving the way for the disbursement of further funds after more reforms to its pension and tax systems. On Tuesday, after a three-year hiatus, it launched a return to bond markets, widely seen as a test run for authorities before its third financial bailout from international lenders expires next year. "It is also a signal to markets that Greece is showing results as far as its commitments are concerned and the reforms which have been decided and is back onto a path of sustainability," Moscovici said, speaking through an interpreter. Greece has invited holders of its 4.75 per cent outstanding bonds maturing in 2019 to tender...
  4. A trapper will be given back his licence after the Court of Appeal found there were not enough proof that he was the person shot in a video taken by environmental activists. Joseph Axiaq had been prosecuted over charges of illegal trapping of a protected species without a valid licence. He was declared guilty by a Magistrates’ Court in Gozo, fined €3,000 and had his hunting and trapping licence suspended for two years. The incident took place one afternoon at around 5pm in March 2016 when a suspect was filmed by CABS volunteers patrolling the area of St Peter in Gharb.Three members of the Committee Against Bird Slaughter had allegedly come across an illegal trapping site, with nets and a finch decoy set up in a cage. They had also heard a bird caller nearby. A man, hidden under some bushes, had allegedly fled the scene but not before the activists captured the whole episode on video. A report was filed at the Victoria Police Station and a DVD containing the allegedly incriminating footage was handed over to the police. The appeal argued that the identity of the person seen fleeing the scene had not been established beyond all reasonable doubt. The court, presided over by Mr...
  5. Vodafone has blocked a series of telephone numbers in Switzerland, Tunisia and Albania after numerous people reporting receiving suspect phone calls from numbers they did not recognise. A spokesperson for Vodafone said that the calls came from numbers starting with +41 7427850 (Switzerland) ****, +21 65850 **** (Tunisia) and +35 5450 **** (Albania). According to Facebook, people reported that when they answer they hear silence and the call then disconnects – at which stage no damage has been done. However, the problem starts if people try to call back, as these are international calls and very often linked to much higher call charges. The spokesperson said that Vodafone was investigating and warned that it might be that the number being called is only a front for a caller from much further afield, most likely in Africa, and that the calls could turn out to be very expensive. “We cannot block incoming numbers – only a client can do that – but we can block outgoing numbers so as we confirm them, which is what we are doing now,” she said.
  6. The first two lanes of the Kappara Junction project will be opened to traffic this evening.  Traffic heading from the Msida direction towards St Julian's will flow over the newly-built flyover as of 9pm, allowing workers to close off access from Regional Road to San Ġwann and work on that part of the junction.  The lanes being opened to traffic tonight will be used for cars heading in the opposite direction once the project is complete, but authorities have opted to prioritise St Julian's-bound traffic to ease congestion flows currently limited to one lane of traffic.  Transport Minister Ian Borg expressed satisfaction that the flyover project was set to be completed on budget and ahead of schedule.  Marsa project Once the Kappara Junction project is complete, the focus will shift to a massive, three-year project to introduce a similar flyover system at Marsa.  Works on the project were pencilled in to begin in January, with Kappara Junction works originally projected to run until the end of the year. Dr Borg said that the Marsa works were still scheduled to begin in January, with procurement issues making it difficult to push the starting date forward.   "We want to see, as we...
  7. Edward Snowden, Lawrence Lessig and Birgitta Jónsdóttir, figures of the struggle for liberty, are questioning the future of democracy.
  8. Guests at hotels, guesthouses, hostels and tourist villages were up by almost 9 per cent in May when compared to the same month last year, new NSO data shows. National Statistic Office figures show that 166,842 guests spent a collective total of 848,039 nights in Malta that month. All forms of collective accommodation except 4-star hotels registered increases in total nights spent. 4-star hotels, however, continued to be the most popular form of collective accommodation, accounting for  45.4 per cent of nights spent.  The average length of stay in collective accommodation establishments went down to 5.1 nights from 5.4 nights in May 2016. Net use of beds was down by 0.5 percentage points and stood at 67.9 per cent.  NSO figures show that there were 176 collective accommodation establishments registered in Malta in May. Together, they have a capacity of 17,868 bedrooms and 40,349 bed-places. Regional breakdown Hoteliers in Gozo saw the biggest gains, with guest numbers up by 11.2 per cent compared to Malta's 8.8 per cent increase and the 7.7 per cent increase registered for Comino.  The country as a whole registered a 14.7 per cent increase in total guests over the first five...
  9. For those unfamiliar with Bitcoin, it is a digital asset that made a statement in markets by catapulting high past the value of gold. It emerged in 2009 as a cryptocurrency and a digital payment system (based on coding) that has dominated the market in recent years – and was up 300% in 2016. Despite the attractive gains Bitcoin has generated, investors still remain wary of the said asset ¬– mostly because they do not understand the technology behind it. The technology is a mere drawback because Bitcoin behaves like a store of wealth that is popular among most – gold. The traits that allowed Bitcoin to surge as stock markets crash are ones that match our modern global economy. Firstly, there is only so much Bitcoin in circulation, making it finite. Secondly, Bitcoin is secured by the coding that envelopes it. Thirdly, Bitcoin is independent and can in no way be influenced by governments or other currencies. The problem that Bitcoin has is that it cannot keep up with the demand; the network holding up Bitcoin has to be able to keep up with the increasing transaction volumes. In the end, two solutions were put forward – one that could lower the value of Bitcoin to pennies. The...
  10. Over three-quarters of the students and staff at the University of Malta use a car to get there – either as a driver or passenger – with a third also using the bus at times, and just under a quarter “sometimes walking”. Only three per cent use a motorcycle and just two per cent use a bicycle. The results emerge from a mobility survey carried out by the university, which is part of an international consortium running an EU programme to work on improving mobility at campuses in the Mediterranean. The university has been running a green travel plan since 2010 as one of the actions emerging from this exercise, and a working group of stakeholders has been set up to tackle the issues outlined. Dealing with the daytime population of 13,000 has posed inevitable pressure on the university, which already allocates 41,000 square metres to parking, compared with just 28,000 square metres for buildings.  
  11. Adam Peaty... world record swim in Budapest.

    Adam Peaty won the 100 metres breaststroke at the World Championships on Monday night and returned on Tuesday morning to qualify fastest in a world record over 50m. The 22-year-old Uttoxeter swimmer set the world record of 26.42 seconds en route to winning 50m breaststroke gold in Kazan, Russia two years ago. Peaty was optimistic of going quicker in the non-Olympic event after a halfway split of 26.50secs in the 100m, which he had also won in 2015. He predicted "something special" and delivered - clocking 26.10 in the morning heats. Cameron van der Burgh of South Africa was second quickest in 26.54. The 0.44 margin is huge over one length. Peaty's 100m title was one of two gold medals for Britain on day two, with Ben Proud winning the non-Olympic 50m butterfly.
  12. Welcome to this new initiative by Times of Malta's sports desk. We are looking to keep our readers and social media followers updated with all the latest news and gossip regarding the summer transfer window. 12.50pm Major news is coming out of Spain as Marca is reporting that Real Madrid have reached an agreement to sign Kyrian Mbappe, from Monaco. 12.40pm Adam Smith has signed a new four-year contract to commit to Bournemouth until 2021. The full-back, 26, has made 113 appearances for the Premier League club since his arrival from Tottenham in 2014, which followed a loan spell in 2010/11. "I'm delighted," he told the club's official website. "I'm settled in the area and get along really well with the lads. 11.20am Watford are interested in signing Valencia centre-back Aymen Abdennour. SkySports reported that they have made a £1.8m loan offer with an option to buy for £7m. The 27-year-old has won over 50 caps for Tunisia. 11am Fiorentina are closing in on the signing of Aston Villa midfielder Jordan Veretout. The 24-year-old Frenchman made 25 appearances for Villa after joining from Nantes in an £8million deal two years ago, but spent last season on loan at St Etienne...
  13. WHAT THE PAPERS SAY Arsenal striker ALEXIS SANCHEZ is willing to take a pay cut in order to move to Manchester City, according to the Independent. Bayern Munich, Juventus and Paris St Germain are also keen on the Chile frontman but his preference is to remain in the Premier League and join up with Pep Guardiola's revolution at The Etihad and wants his future resolved in the August transfer window. The Daily Mirror reports that Chelsea have not finished their summer spending spree yet and are poised to see Antonio Conte a further £150million to spend with the Italian keen on Southampton defender VIRGIL VAN DIJK. The Blues boss also wants Juventus full-back ALEX SANDRO and is keeping tabs on Inter Milan winger ANTONIO CANDREVA. The Daily Mail reports that Roma have tabled a bid of £30million plus add-ons for Leicester attacker RIYAD MAHREZ. However, the Foxes are holding out for £50m for the Algeria international with Arsenal and Liverpool also keen on the 26-year-old frontman. The Mail also reports that Swansea are holding out for £50m for playmaker GYLFI SIGURDSSON as Everton boss Ronald Koeman continues his pursuit of the Iceland midfielder. The Toffees are hopeful of...
  14. People wait for the start of ride-hailing company Grab’s fifth anniversary news conference in Singapore. Photo: Reuters

    Ride-hailing firm Grab expects to raise $2.5 billion to spend extending its lead over Uber Technologies Inc and expanding into financial services, in the latest injection of funds into Southeast Asia’s burgeoning tech scene. Chinese peer Didi Chuxing and Japan’s SoftBank Group Corp will contribute most of the money, which a person close to the Singapore-based firm said would value it at $6 billion. The investment would be the latest in a Southeast Asian tech startup as major companies seek growth in the region’s huge developing economies with young, tech-savvy demographics. Chinese social media firm Tencent Holdings Ltd put up to $150 million into Grab’s Indonesian peer Go-Jek, sources said this month, while in June, Alibaba Group Holding Ltd spent an additional $1 billion to raise its stake in Singapore-based e-tailer Lazada. Grab’s fresh fundraising is “a real endorsement of the potential and promise” of Southeast Asia’s startup community, said Dane Anderson, a vice president at researcher Forrester. Didi and SoftBank are already investors in Grab and other ride-hailing services globally. The pair will add $2 billion, and with $500 million from others, the fundraising will be...
  15. Medical firms hoping to win supply contracts with the private company tasked with running three public hospitals are being asked to submit their bids to a competitor. A number of medical suppliers told this paper they had been put in a very awkward position, after Vitals Global Healthcare (VGH) informed them that all procurement would be run through Technoline, which is a competing firm in the medical supplies industry. The Sunday Times of Malta asked VGH if it had some sort of financial interest in Technoline, but instead of answering the question, the company issued a press release announcing the “exclusive contract” under which Technoline would manage the supply chain processes for VGH. Documents at the Malta Financial Services Authority show that Technoline’s shares were recently bought out by Gateway Solution, of which Ivan Vassallo is the sole shareholder and director. Mr Vassallo is listed as the director of three companies set up after 2015, including a company called MMXVI, which lists Brian Tonna’s BT International as one of its shareholders. One medical supplier complained that Technoline would now receive all the confidential information about contract bids. “It is a...
  16. Customs officials seized €25,000 in undeclared cash following searches at the airport and seaport yesterday.    Officials working at the Malta International Airport departures lounge seized €12,000 from a Maltese passenger heading to Istanbul. Others working at the seaport discovered €12,990 during a routine screening of passengers arriving in Malta on the ferry from Sicily.   According to the law, passengers travelling with more than €10,000 in cash and/or carrying excise goods to or from any EU country must submit a declaration to Customs. 
  17. A Ryanair aircraft lands at Manchester Airport in Manchester, Britain. Photo: Reuters

    Irish budget carrier Ryanair has submitted a non-binding bid for struggling Italian airline Alitalia, its chief financial officer said yesterday. Alitalia filed in May to be put under special administration for the second time in less than a decade, starting a process that will lead to the airline being overhauled, sold off or wound up. It received about ten non-binding offers by a Friday deadline, a source told Reuters. “We put a non-binding bid in,” chief financial officer Neil Sorahan told Reuters. “I can’t say much more other than we think it is right to be involved in the process.” Chief executive Michael O’Leary in June said Ryanair would seek a majority stake in Alitalia if it decides to invest. But at other times he has indicated he was keen on cooperating with the business rather than buying it and was more interested in participating in the sales process than buying it.
  18. Magistrate Aaron Bugeja. Photo: Matthew Mirabelli

    Updated 12.05pm with ministry reaction The magistrate conducting the Egrant inquiry is awaiting the Justice Department’s approval before appointing foreign IT experts to assist him, according to judicial sources, a claim which has now been contested by the ministry. The sources said that since the inquiry conducted by Magistrate Aaron Bugeja was very complex and involved none other than the Prime Minister and his wife, it was decided that the best way to examine certain computer servers would be to use foreign expertise. "Normally, the court chooses from among two to three local IT experts, however since this case is so sensitive, it was decided it would be best to use foreign experts. The only problem is that the costs would be exorbitant, exceeding €500,000, and the court, in this case, would need the government's green light to proceed," they added. Although there is no list yet of experts from which the judiciary can choose, some judges and magistrates have often engaged the services of Martin Bajada, who was found to have a criminal record, Steven Farrugia Sacco, the son of Judge Lino Farrugia Sacco, and Kurt Mahoney, who now resides abroad. READ: If you're a court expert,...
  19. The Siemens AG headquarters in Munich, Germany. Photo: Reuters

    Germany is urging the European Union to add up to four more Russian nationals and companies to the bloc’s sanctions blacklist over Siemens gas turbines delivered to Moscow-annexed Crimea, two sources in Brussels said. The EU has barred firms from doing business with Crimea since the 2014 annexation. Siemens has said it had evidence that all four turbines it delivered for a project in southern Russia had been illegally moved to Crimea. One senior diplomatic source said that the additions could include Russian energy ministry officials and the Russian company that moved the turbines. Another source said representatives of all 28 EU states could discuss the matter in Brussels as soon as tomorrow. The EU needs unanimous votes to impose sanctions.
  20. It was never the most powerful or versatile of tools, but what Microsoft Paint lacked in terms of features it made up for by its sheer ubiquity.  So when Microsoft listed the much-loved app as being "not in active development" and noting it "might be removed from future releases" yesterday, the internet went into overdrive to mourn its demise.  But Paint is here to stay, Microsoft has reassured users in a blog post. While it might no longer form part of Windows by default, it will be available to download for free from the Windows store.  First released in 1985 as part of Windows 1.0, Microsoft Paint quickly became a Microsoft staple app, appearing as part of every itineration of Windows since then.  Although it was never the most powerful of apps - users could only save files as jpegs from 1998 onwards and the programme never included things such as the ability to create layers - its simplicity for basic image tasks cemented it as an office favourite.  The next update to Windows 10 is expected to be released this coming autumn.   
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