Times of Malta

General, sporting, and business news for Malta and the surrounding region
  1. 10 students have enrolled at University after a change in admission regulations for those with learning difficulties. Photo: Chris Sant Fournier

    Ten students with learning difficulties have enrolled at University this year after a change in admission regulations for those not in possession of compulsory subjects came into force. This newspaper is informed that while the final number is yet to be determined, as not all exam results have yet been published, the number of students has not yet exceeded 10. Speaking to this newspaper, pro-rector Carmen Sammut confirmed that the number had yet to be finalised, adding the University did not have any specific number of students in mind as this was the first year the measure was being introduced. “Even if the measure helps just a handful of students pursue tertiary education, that is already a step forward,” Dr Sammut, who serves as student affairs pro-rector, said. The University general entry requirements are the matriculation certificate, obtained after attending sixth form, and passes at grade 5 or better in the Secondary Education Certificate (SEC) examinations in six subjects which must include the English language, Maltese, mathematics and one of the sciences: biology, chemistry or physics. The matriculation certificate consists of six subjects and is awarded if students...
  2.     Pope Francis vowed to respond with the "firmest measures possible" against priests who rape and molest children. The pontiff also said bishops and religious superiors who cover up for them will be held accountable. Pope Francis met for the first time with his sex abuse advisory commission, a group of outside experts named in 2014 to advise him and the Catholic Church on best practices to keep pedophiles out of the priesthood and protect children. The commission has held educational workshops in dioceses around the world, but has faced such stiff resistance to some of its proposals at the Vatican that its most prominent member, Irish abuse survivor Marie Collins, resigned in frustration in March. The commission's statutes and membership are up for review, and it remains to be seen if survivors of abuse will be included in the new membership. Cardinal Sean O'Malley, the archbishop of Boston and head of the commission, told the pope the commission had "benefited greatly" from listening to survivors, but made no mention of whether any were under consideration for membership. On the membership front, he said only that the commission was seeking "representatives from churches in...
  3. LA Galaxy were left red faced after suffering a 4-0 defeat by conference infants Atlanta United. The Georgia side fired in three goals in just seven minutes during a brilliant first-half display against David Beckham's former club. Yamil Asad put away two and was instrumental in goals by midfielder Miguel Almiron and striker Josef Martinez, who scored his 17th of the season. On loan from Argentinian side Velez Sarsfield, Asad scored Atlanta's first goal as a Major League Soccer side against the New York Bulls in March, one of the side's first games in the Eastern Conference. According to reports, United bosses have considered exercising the USD2million (£1.4million) buyout clause in the 23-year-old's contract. Galaxy had to play most of the game a man down after defensive midfielder Jermaine Jones was sent off in the 39th minute for kicking out at Atlanta winger Hector Villalba. The numbers were evened up in the 82nd minute when Brandon Vazquez was dismissed. There was more drama in Toronto, where the hosts' 11-game unbeaten streak came to an end in a 5-3 defeat to Montreal Impact. Montreal had entered the game having lost their last four games, but netted three times in the...
  4. Four months after a decisive election defeat and France's National Front is in further chaos. Its far right leader, Marine Le Pen, watching her second-in-command resign and bash her in the national media - possibly opening the way for a split in the party and a rebranding for the controversial group. Le Pen and her deputy Florian Philippot have fallen out over their stances on France's relationship with the European Union. For years Le Pen's defended Philippot's anti-euro and protectionist line against critics within the party, But recently she's distanced herself from his view, focusing instead on the party's anti-immigration roots.  "Clearly if in the future my party doesn't believe in national independence, if it isn't patriotic, then clearly there's no place for me there because I do believe in national independence," Philippot said. The hardline stance against the EU, where France is one of the biggest players, is believed to be one of the policies that hurt the National Front the most in the last election. The party has given itself until March to rebrand in preparation for the next presidential race in 2022.
  5. The government appears to be trying to start a new push for oil and gas exploration in Maltese waters after all activities ground to a stop. A notice issued in the official journal of the European Union today says that Blocks 1, 2 and 3 of Area 3, an area of 6,000 square kilometres north of Malta, are now available "for authorisation on a permanent basis under either an exploration licence or an exploration and production licence". Last year, oil exploration firm Rockhopper said it would not renew its agreement for oil exploration in Area 3. The agreement expired in December. The operator, Cairn Energy had told Times of Malta that it was not conducting any activity in Malta and it had “no news to report” when asked about its plans for 2017.  In July, the Maltese government appointed former Air Malta chairman Marisa Micallef as head of the National Oil Corporation within the Office of the Prime Minister. "Her skills will now be used to make a turnaround in this area, particularly in the field of oil exploration," the government had announced. The history of Malta’s oil exploration efforts has been disappointing. Oil exploration efforts have been made offshore north and south of...
  6.   Tuscany attracts visitors from all over the world who flock to the north, to Florence, to Pisa, and to the Chianti wine. The south of the region is a little more untrodden.
  7. A graffiti artist who tried his hand on a Qawra shopwindow was told by a magistrate this morning to express himself in an acceptable manner. Razvan Claudiu Mican, 26, of Romania, was given an nine-month prison sentence suspend for 18 months by Magistrate Ian Farrugia, after he pleaded guilty to vandalising third party property. Prosecuting officer Inspector Nicholas Vella said Mr Mican had been reported to the police while drawing graffiti on a shop window in Qawra yesterday evening. On searching his person, officers also discovered that he was in possession of two joints of cannabis. During sentencing, Magistrate Farrugia told the young Romanian that he hoped he would not repeat this behaviour. “If this is acceptable in your country, it thankfully is not here in Malta. Furthermore, it is illegal,” he said. The magistrate when on to say that if the young man felt compelled to express himself artistically, he should find acceptable means to do so.
  8. A pickpocket was sentenced to seven months behind bars this morning, after he was caught nabbing an iPhone7. Vasile Dumitru, 47, a Romanian, pleaded guilty to the charge of stealing the iPhone7 smartphone on Wednesday September 13, in Valletta. He stole the smartphone from Susa Anne Hannay, a British expat. Police inspector Lara Butters agreed to drop the second charge of being in possession of stolen items once Mr Dumitru plead guilty to theft. The second charge, she said, had only been put as an alternative to the first. Presiding magistrate Ian Farrugia noted that Mr Dumitru was a recidivist.
  9. Archbishop Charles Scicluna made a plea for fair distribution of wealth in his Independence Day homily this morning. "As we thrive to attract the rich and the mighty of this world to invest here and work among us, let us also try to ensure that our families are not edged out of the decent standard of living most of them still enjoy," he said during pontifical Mass at St John's Co-Cathedral. Attending the Mass were Acting President Dolores Christina, Acting Prime Minister Chris Fearne, Speaker Anglu Farrugia and Opposition leader Simon Busuttil. Nationalist Party leader Adrian Delia sat with the congregation and was greeted by the archbishop as he entered the cathedral. Mgr Scicluna said those who have authority in the State must exercise it in a way which is not only morally irreproachable but also best calculated to ensure or promote the State's welfare. The attainment of the common good is the sole reason for the existence of civil authorities, he said. And it is in the nature of the common good that every single citizen has the right to share in it – although in different ways, depending on his tasks, merits and circumstances. He said there was a need to promote and ensure...
  10. Former professional footballer John Hartson. Photo: Jonathan Borg

    Having almost ruined his marriage, 42-year-old Welshman John Hartson has enough credentials and experience to be able to raise awareness about the dangers of gambling. For Mr Hartson, gambling started at a very early age at slot machines: “It controlled my whole world for many years. It became a real problem and caused major issues in my life, leading to relationship problems with my wife, children, friends and parents,” he said during the second Responsible Gaming Conference, organised by Kindred and the Foundation for Social Welfare Services. The event brought together all stakeholders, including operators, psychologists, gamblers and academics. Mr Hartson, a former Celtic striker who also played for Arsenal and West Ham and is now a pundit for BT Sport, said he wanted to pass on a message about the dangers of getting too involved with gambling and becoming a compulsive gambler. So how did he overcome the addiction? “It was a very poignant moment. My wife and I had a massive row and she was going to leave and take my children if I didn’t stop. That was my rock bottom. “From that day on, I sought help. I can now help others who are in the same place I was in six years ago. I...
  11. Malta coach Karl Izzo was disappointed with the performance of the junior national team during the European Championships that came to a close on Sunday at the National Pool. The Maltese youngsters placed last in the 16-team championship after losing all the matches played. Montenegro won the gold medal after edging Spain 11-10 in a thrilling final with Hungary completing the podium after defeating Russia 14-11 in the bronze medal play-off. Izzo laid most of the blame on the players’ fitness for Malta’s abject showing last week. “I am really frustrated with our final position,” Izzo told Times of Malta. “We could have easily finished at least 14th in the final standings. Against Ukraine we  were firmly in control and had enough opportunities to put the game beyond our opponents’ reach but in the end we were severely punished. “But if you had to analyse our performance one has to admit that the team’s preparations were not good enough for the championship and that is not acceptable.” The Malta coach said that he was disappointed with the poor physical condition he found his players in at the start of the tournament preparations. “I was really frustrated on our first day of...
  12. Parking in Valletta should be a lot easier tomorrow, provided three people are riding in your car. Valletta local council will be limiting access into the city to cars with a driver and two passengers. The measure is aimed at promoting car-pooling, since the theme of this year's European Mobility Week is Sharing Gets You Further. READ; Valletta workers steer clear of public transport But the leading by example apparently does not apply to government entities since they have been exempted from the measure. Valletta residents are also exempt. European Mobility Week is being held throughout this week. Għarb, one of the smallest villages in Malta and Gozo, not known for traffic congestion, will hold a car-free day tomorrow.  
  13. Medserv convened a meeting with financial analysts last week to provide additional details on the interim financial results published on August 23 and also to update the market on the current business pipeline as well as opportunities in the months and years ahead. Following the diversification strategy adopted in recent years, the Medserv group is now split into two main business units: integrated logistic support services (ILSS) via the existing facilities in Malta, Cyprus and Portugal and the oil country tubular goods (OCTG) segment via the METS group which was acquired in early 2016 and operates in Oman, UAE and Iraq. Although Medserv’s directors had been indicating to the market that the group was expecting a weak financial performance during the first few months of 2017, the actual results were worse than management expectations. The half-year report reveals that this was largely due to the ILSS unit which reported revenues of €5.8 million in the first six months of 2017, down from €10.6 million in the first half of last year. The worse-than-expected performance in this area was principally as a result of the continued delay in drilling activity offshore Libya which is...
  14. Antibiotics are losing their effectiveness, experts warned. Photo: Shutterstock.com

    The world is running out of antibiotics, global health leaders have warned. The World Health Organisation said that “antimicrobial resistance is a global health emergency”. Growing resistance to drugs that fight infections could “seriously jeopardise” progress made in modern medicine, the head of WHO said. The remarks come after a new WHO report found a serious lack of new drugs in development to combat the growing threat of antibiotic resistance. Health experts have previously warned that resistance to antimicrobial drugs could cause a bigger threat to mankind than cancer. In recent years, there has been a UK drive to raise global awareness of the threat posed to modern medicine by antimicrobial resistance. If antibiotics lose their effectiveness, then key medical procedures – including gut surgery, Caesarean sections, joint replacements and chemotherapy – could become too dangerous to perform. Around 700,000 people around the world die annually due to drug-resistant infections including drug-resistant tuberculosis (TB), HIV and malaria. If no action is taken, it has been estimated that drug-resistant infections will kill 10 million people a year by 2050. The WHO previously...
  15. Finance Minister Edward Scicluna addresses yesterday’s pre-Budget business breakfast. Photo: Jonathan Borg

    An extra day of leave for each public holiday that falls on a weekend would cost the private sector close to €9 million a year, which translates to less than a normal wage rise, the finance minister said yesterday. Edward Scicluna made this point when addressing social partners during a pre-Budget business breakfast held yesterday at the Casino Maltese in Valletta. He noted that the measure, included in the Labour Party’s manifesto, would cost less than 0.5 per cent of a month’s salary. “Business needs time to adjust. It is payment in kind,” Prof. Scicluna remarked. His comments were made in the wake of the recent warning from employers and entrepreneurs that such a proposal would seriously dent competitiveness. Nonetheless, the government is insisting that it will forge ahead, saying it is only a question of when and how, rather than if. In his address yesterday, the finance minister outlined the main areas on which the forthcoming Budget, set for October 9 would be focusing. While insisting there was no “property bubble”, he said that government would be addressing the increase in rent rates by rolling out Budget incentives to increase the supply of property on the market and...
  16. Lufthansa budget unit Eurowings has agreed a deal with the Verdi union that will allow it to hire new cabin crew at short notice from rivals such as bankrupt Air Berlin. Eurowings launched a recruitment drive last month, seeking around 200 pilots and 400 cabin crew qualified to fly and crew A320 planes. Air Berlin also flies A320 planes so the drive is a chance for staff to get hired without waiting for talks on a carve-up of the carrier to finish. Eurowings, which did not mention Air Berlin staff specifically in its statement, said it had received over 1,000 applications and had started conducting interviews. Eurowings plans to hold talks with pilots’ union Vereinigung Cockpit with the aim of being able to take on captains and first officers at short notice as well, it said. The deal with Verdi, which Eurowings says will take into account applicants’ previous experience, comes after a similar agreement with union UFO, which also represents cabin crew. Workers at Air Berlin, which employs more than 8,000 staff, are currently waiting to see how the airline will be divided up among interested parties, with a final decision expected by September 25. Lufthansa has made an offer for...
  17. Luqa St Andrew’s were the winners of the Third Division Section C league in 1971-72.

    In the 1970s, football in Malta went into decline. After the glorious years of the 1960s the game started to lose its sparkle and the attendances began to dwindle. In the first couple of seasons of the 1970s, however, the interest in the local game was still high and including in the lower divisions. The 1971-72 season kicked off with the Third Division Sons of Malta Cup final between Żurrieq and Marsaxlokk at the Schreiber Sports Ground on September 26. This game was very exciting and kept the crowd present on its feet for the whole 90 minutes. In the first half, Marsaxlokk’s young goalkeeper Camilleri distinguished himself with several difficult saves. However, ten minutes into the second period, Camilleri saved a powerful shot by Gatt but the ball fell to Bugeja who made no mistake from the rebound. It was a fine goal and just enough for Żurrieq to take home the trophy. At the end of the match, MFA vice-president Lawrence Xuereb presented the trophy to Żurrieq captain Bugeja. That season, football at the Schreiber was full of surprises. It is enough to say that St Venera Lightnings and Gudja United, who at the start of the season were tipped for promotion, ended in the...
  18. Germany’s Thyssenkrupp and India’s Tata Steel agreed yesterday to merge their European steel operations in a preliminary deal that would create the continent’s No.2 steelmaker after ArcelorMittal. The deal will not involve any cash, Tata Steel said, adding that both groups would contribute debt and liabilities to achieve an equal shareholding and remain long-term investors. The companies say they need to consolidate to address overcapacity in the European steel market, which faces cheap imports from China and elsewhere, subdued demand for construction and inefficient legacy plants. “We want to avoid our steel team restructuring itself to death,” Thyssenkrupp CEO Heinrich Hiesinger told reporters, noting its steel operations would face deeper restructuring needs if they remained part of the group. “No one is able to solve the structural issues in Europe alone. We all suffer from overcapacity and that means that everyone is making the same restructuring efforts,” Hiesinger told broadcaster n-tv. Thyssenkrupp shares rose 3.2 per cent, boosted by hopes that the joint venture will also ease the burden on its balance sheet, which will be freed from €4 billion in mostly pension...
  19. A British IT worker says he faces a possible six-month term in a Dubai prison for sticking his middle finger up at another driver during a road row. Jamil Ahmed Mukadam, 23, made the rude gesture as he made his way to the airport in a hire car after a holiday in the Gulf state with his wife in February. When he returned to the oil-rich emirate on September 10 he was arrested at immigration control and initially held in a police cell with criminals including rapists and murderers, he told the Sun. He told the paper he was later released on bail to a hotel but had his passport confiscated to stop him leaving the country, and is close to running out of money. Mr Mukadam, from Leicester, told the Sun that he had made the rude gesture to a driver who tailgated him and started flashing his lights, and "thought nothing more of it". He told the newspaper: "It's the kind of thing that happens in England all the time. You don't go to jail for it. "When I came back last week for a holiday with my wife I went through passport control in Dubai and when they took a scan it started beeping loudly. "Within seconds I was surrounded by police and taken off to jail." Radha Stirling of law firm...
  20. In a leader last month, this newspaper expressed the opinion that, in the ongoing efforts to save Air Malta, appeasing suppliers and unions should not come in the equation. It made the comment after sources close to the national carrier said the airline had “to fly below the radar of the European Commission and other stakeholders, walking a tightrope between appeasing suppliers and unions, and making the airline viable enough to attract investors”. Suppliers wanting to retain a contract usually go to the powers that be to pull a few strings here and there, hoping to find a weak link somewhere. This may still be happening but it appears the new minister responsible for the national air carrier, Konrad Mizzi, has taken good stock of the situation and appears determined to make the right commercial decisions. The resumption of certain services illogically dropped under the watch of his predecessor already bodes well. So is the decision to make changes to the board of directors, though Dr Mizzi would do well to consider again engaging foreign expertise who were roped in a few years back. The unions are likely to be a tougher nut to crack. In this country, they have been appeased by...
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