Times of Malta

General, sporting, and business news for Malta and the surrounding region
  1. Greece’s economic recovery continues at a decent pace, regardless of escalating signals of a slowdown coming from peer Eurozone countries. The combined apparent effect of an exit from the third European Stability Mechanism (ESM) programme and the positive effect of the recovery on employment have been supporting consumer confidence, which posted a relative high last December. Unsurprisingly, confidence in retail held up decently well as did confidence in service sectors, backed by a strong performance from the tourism sector. On the contrary, confidence in the export-related manufacturing sector has fallen sharply since last August, reflecting an ongoing deterioration of the international background. Domestic demand In the third quarter of 2018, the seasonal and calendar adjusted Greek GDP expanded by a healthy 1% quarter on quarter. Data showed that the economic growth was driven by gross fixed capital formation and by inventory accumulation, with private consumption providing a minor push. The side effect was a sharp gain of imports, with net exports acting as a drag as a consequence. In addition to, according to the Hellenic Statistical Authority, employment continued to...
  2. A rainbow appeared over Merżuq Hill, between Marsalforn and Victoria, at noon yesterday and, in the distance, snow covered Etna, in Sicily. Photo: Daniel Cilia
  3. Former Scottish first minister and pro-independence figurehead Alex Salmond was on Thursday arrested and charged in a probe over allegations of sexual harassment, police said. "We can confirm that a 64-year-old man has been arrested and charged," a spokeswoman for Police Scotland added, noting a report will now be sent to the public prosecutor.  
  4. Keith Schembri, chief of staff at the Office of the Prime Minister was expected to testify in libel proceedings against Simon Busuttil, after the former Nationalist leader had accused him of receiving kickbacks. The suit revolves around the speech delivered by the then PN leader on March 6, 2016 in a national protest in Valletta against corruption. But the case was adjourned as lawyers argued over whether Mr Schembri should also testify over secret company 17 Black. The company had been named in leaked e-mails as one of two companies that would pay $2 million to Mr Schembri's and Konrad Mizzi's Panama companies This a minute-by-minute rundown of Thursday's case: 11.27am: Simon Busuttil leaves the court room followed some time later by Mr Schembri.  11.26am: The court is putting off the case to March 7 to deliver a decree specifically on this application. This means that Keith Schembri does not need to be cross examined on Thursday. 11.25am: Magistrate Francesco Depasquale has to decree upon today’s application whether there are to be questions on 17 Black.  Watch: 17 Black in 90 seconds 11.17am: If you're catching up with us now, the two lawyers from the opposing sides are...
  5. Workers are working round the clock to restore internet, phone and TV services to hundreds of people around Siġġiewi after GO cables were accidentally severed by a contractor. The incident happened over the weekend and GO said it had engaged sub-contractors to help its staff repair the network as quickly as possible. Some services have already been restored.  GO CEO Nikhil Patil expressed his apologies to consumers.  “Regrettably, we suffer at least two incidents a week that are the result of unrelated third parties, mostly due to construction works. Thankfully, not all are as critical as that experienced this weekend, however this does cost us hundreds of thousands of Euros every year, however of greater concern to us is the inconvenience to our customers,” said Mr Patil. Go said that in the next few days it will be reaching out to its impacted customers with a gesture of goodwill for the inconvenience caused.  
  6. The Gozo Ministry has announced a programme of events aimed at encouraging people to go to Gozo for the Valentine's Day weekend. Minister Justyne Caruana said the ministry was building on a successful programme launched last year.  The events include a Drive-In Movie Night near the Victoria car park on February 9 and a concert by Ivan Grech and Gozitan artistes on February 16 at Independence Square. Street events will also be held in Victoria along an art exhibition at the Ċittadella. Dr Caruana said such thematic events were attracting more people to Gozo, making the island a year-round destination.   Programme details can be found at https://www.visitgozo.com/events/inhobbok/
  7. Updated Thursday with PA decision, vote - The Planning Authority on Thursday approved the renewal of a permit for a massive residential development rising to 12 storeys on the site of the former Mistra Village. The project includes a complex of 744 residential units in four blocks at the top of Xemxija Hill, along with shops, restaurants, offices, a spa, pool and clubhouse as well as more than 1,600 parking spaces. A permit for the development was issued in 2013 but no development was ever carried out and developers Gemxija Crown Ltd applied last July to renew the permit before the expiry of its five-year validity period. No changes have been proposed to the approved plans and the PA case officer has recommended the renewal application for approval. Nevertheless, neighbours raised concerns in objections to the PA over the height of the development, which they said would dwarf its surroundings.  They also complained about the overall scale, which is expected to negatively impact the transport network of the area and increase pollution. The original permit was issued prior to the introduction of the floor area ratio policy for high-rise buildings in 2014, under which the project...
  8. The establishment of an Emission Control Area in the Mediterranean would bring enormous air quality benefits, save 6,000 lives and reduce the healthcare bill of several countries, BirdLife Malta said on Thursday. It was reacting to a French report on air pollution from shipping. The report was compiled by Ineris, the French national institute for industrial environment and risks.   The impact assessment, which started in 2017, investigated potential air quality improvements in the region following a switch to better grade marine fuels. The report found that particulate matter (PM) can be reduced by up to 20% and nitrogen dioxide (NO2) levels by up to 76%, leading to up to €14 billion in reduced health costs and potentially saving more than 6,000 lives every year in the region. Air pollution from shipping can represent up to 40% of all Mediterranean coastal city air pollution. It represents a significant threat for human health, the environment and climate. "The main reason for this pollution is the use of heavy fuel oil, highly charged in sulphur that emits black carbon, heavy metals, fine particulates and sulphur dioxide. As pollutants are carried over long distances, it is not...
  9. The winter transfer window reopened on New Year's Day. The Times of Malta sports section will keep you up-to-date with all the latest transfer gossip and movements throughout the whole month. So make sure you stay with us to follow all the latest developments. 4.10pm Young Argentinian midfielder Alexis Mac Allister is likely to undergo a medical at Brighton later this week ahead
  10. The death of a four-year-old boy and the hospitalisation of a three-week-old baby from meningitis sparked concern among many. Is there any cause for alarm, asks Joanne Cocks. The answer, quite simply is no. Doctors and the health authorities have said that the two cases are in no way connected or related even if the public assumed there might be an outbreak only because two cases were reported at about the same time. Read: Tragedy strikes as child dies of meningitis Paediatric cardiologist Victor Grech, a keen promoter of vaccination programmes, encouraged parents to ensure they follow vaccination advice. Bacterial meningitis is serious, and can be fatal without prompt antibiotic treatment, which if delayed increases the risk of permanent brain damage or death. Prof. Grech explained that the common types of meningitis are viral and bacterial. Put simply, viral meningitis usually gives fever, a headache, photophobia (discomfort or pain to the eyes due to light exposure) and neck stiffness such that the individual is unable to bend the neck forward so the chin can come close to the chest. No treatment is usually necessary except supportive: treating the pain and drinking lots of...
  11. Updated 11.40am Italian minister insists Italy's harbours are closed, Pozzallo mayor concerned - Malta is expecting Italy to offer shelter to a migrant rescue ship stranded close to Sicily because of bad weather, with a government official passing the buck back to deputy prime minister Matteo Salvini who earlier urged Malta to take in the 47 on board. The controversial Italian deputy prime minister in a tweet on Wednesday said the Sea Watch was heading towards Malta, and with worsening weather, said Malta should offer it shelter while The Netherlands (where the ship is registered) should collaborate with Malta and Brussels to receive the migrantson board. He also said that Italy's harbours are closed. But instead of staying near Malta after circling the Italian island of Lampedusa, the Sea Watch headed further north and is now off Sicily.  "In view of (Mr) Salvini’s tweet, and given that the weather conditions are worsening he should offer shelter," a Maltese government official said when questioned by Times of Malta.  Reports said the mayors of a number of Sicilian cities, including Palermo, were prepared to host the migrants, putting them in confrontation with the...
  12. Fourth seed Naomi Osaka outgunned Karolina Pliskova Thursday to set up an Australian Open final against Czech eighth seed Petra Kvitova. The 21-year-old Japanese star overcame the seventh seed 6-2, 4-6, 6-4 to reach a second straight Grand Slam decider after her breakthrough triumph over Serena Williams at last year's US Open. Osaka started strongly to take the first set as the match began with the roof of Rod Laver Arena closed amid sweltering temperatures exceeding 36 degrees Celsius (96.8 Farenheit). But Pliskova, who ousted American great Williams with an epic comeback to make the semi-finals on Wednesday, roared back in the second before Osaka edged past her in the third. "I expected it, I expected a really hard battle," Osaka said of Pliskova's attempt to come back from a set and a break down. "I just told myself to regroup in the third set and try as hard as I could no matter what, and I managed to win." She said her win at Flushing Meadows helped settle her nerves against the never-say-die Czech. "I was so scared serving second serves, I was like 'oh my God, please!'" she said. "I guess that's experience, I don't know. Osaka is bidding to become the first woman since...
  13. Petra Kvitova said she had proved the doubters wrong Thursday by reaching her maiden Australian Open final and the first in a Grand Slam since a knife attack derailed her career. The two-time Wimbledon champion stormed past debutant Danielle Collins 7-6 (7/2), 6-0 in their semi-final after the closure of the roof in searing Melbourne heat gave the Czech a boost. Collins was matching Kvitova until play was interrupted late in the first set while the roof on Rod Laver Arena was closed as the temperature soared past 36 degrees Celsius (96.8 Farenheit). Czech eighth seed Kvitova said until then she was struggling to find her best form. "I'm really glad that it (form) came in the tie-break and in the second set," she said.  "I think I was happier than the fans when the roof closed, I like to play indoors and I think that helped me a little bit." Collins, who had a dream run to make the final four on her Australian debut, became flustered after Kvitova won a first-set tie-breaker and her game fell apart in the second set. Reaching the final is the highlight of what Kvitova calls her "second career", after she returned following a terrifying attack in her home in the Czech Republic...
  14. Listening to Richard Wagner’s music inspired Anton Bruckner, then a church musician in a provincial monastery, to start writing symphonies, although ironically, Wagner himself only completed one symphony in his lifetime. Bruckner’s fame, on the other hand, largely rests on his symphonies. Under the direction of Dutch-Maltese conductor Lawrence Renes, the MPO will be performing his fourth, the only one to which he attached a title. The orchestra will also be joined by British soprano Emma Bell for a performance of Wagner’s Wesendonck lieder, a musical setting of five poems by Mathilde Wesendonck, a friend – and possible lover – of the German composer. The performance will be held today at 7.30pm at the Mediterranean Conference Centre, Valletta. For more information, call 2124 3840, e-mail sales@mcc.com.mt or visit https://www.mcc.com.mt. For tickets visit www.showshappening.com.
  15. Almost five decades after land was expropriated to build the Freeport, 10 part owners have yet to be compensated, leading the European Court of Human Rights to find a violation of their right to property. The case involves seven plots of land in Kalafrana and Bengħajsa, limits of Birżebbuġa, part of which were used for Malta Freeport. The applicants’ father, who owned the land, had been offered €10,464 in compensation for six of the plots but he refused. Parts of the six plots were not used to site the Freeport as such and the seventh remains unused to date.  The government had claimed that, though not built upon, none of the six plots were left unused but served as a buffer zone for security purposes. In 1997, that is, 28 years after the plots were taken over by the government, the applicants’ father instituted constitutional proceedings and the court found in his favour, declaring the government’s acquisition declaration on the land beyond the Freeport zone as void. However, the issue regarding compensation for the other land remained pending and, in 2006, the owner and his wife sought constitutional redress in connection with the land actually used for the Freeport and the...
  16. 10 years ago - The Times Saturday, January 24, 2009 Convicted murderer to appeal Norbert Schembri, the man jailed for life for stabbing to death his former girlfriend and the mother of his daughter, will be appealing his sentence. Contacted yesterday, defence lawyer Joe Brincat said he is in the process of preparing a lengthy appeal, which he expected to file on Monday. He said there are a number of points  he will be dealing with but could not elaborate yesterday. Mr Schembri shocked the courtroom on Thursday when, after sentencing, he turned to the victim’s family and told them: “I’m still alive, I’m still alive.” Following the 8-1 guilty verdict, Mr Justice Joseph Galea Debono sentenced Mr Schembri to life imprisonment, which, unless it is reduced on appeal, effectively means he will not leave prison alive. In handing down sentence, Mr Justice Galea Debono pointed out that just eight days before the murder took place, Mr Schembri’s probation, imposed in another case, had been extended, despite the evidence of a probation officer who said the accused had tested positive for cocaine and had been threatening his former girlfriend.   25 years ago - The Times Monday, January 24,...
  17. A rainbow showed up brightly over the central parts of Malta at 8am on Thursday in a break from a storm which lashed the Maltese islands during the night. The rough weather is expected to continue for most of the day, with strong winds gradually pushing the clouds away. The roads were jammed during rush hour and parents had a nightmare taking parents to school on Thursday morning, but no serious incidents were reported. The Civil Protection Department urged motorists to drive with extra caution. Picture top - Jonathan Borg. Picture right - Joe Fenech Want to share your picture? Send it to mynews@timesofmalta, or Facebook/Times of Malta    
  18. A century ago, when a pandemic wiped out five per cent of the world’s population, warnings to avoid spitting on the floor and allowing sunlight into one’s house were today’s equivalent of getting vaccinated and washing one’s hands. Just like any other country, Malta was not safe from the Spanish flu but a widespread awareness campaign and rigorous quarantine ensured the island suffered the smallest number of casualties. Jane Orr, who lectures on the history of medicine, will on Thursday recount to an audience in an event hosted by Fondazzjoni Wirt Artna what the Maltese population and the government had done to keep the flu at bay. The island registered the lowest death rate across all of Europe. Only eight per cent of the Maltese population were struck by the deadly and infectious bout of H1N1 strain flu between 1918 and 1919, compared to 23 per cent of the UK’s population. In just four months – between August and December – there were 11,600 flu cases in Malta, with 551 eventually succumbing to the viral infection. By the end of the influenza pandemic, Malta lost 0.3 per cent of its population to the flu, compared to Samoa’s 20 per cent, Italy’s 1.3 per cent and Great...
  19. The influx of foreign workers over the last few years helped the economy to grow at a fast rate. It seems the government and the head of State employment agency JobsPlus have no intention to question the possible negative social, economic and environmental effects of increasing dependence on foreign workers. JobsPlus executive chairman Clyde Caruana argues that foreign workers have become so ingrained into our economic system it would be unreasonable – and perhaps verging on madness – to say we can close our doors to them. While very few have insisted this country should completely bar foreign workers, many continue to wonder what studies have been made to gauge the impact on Maltese society of the influx of foreign workers, which seems to be barely controlled. Mirroring the attitude of his political masters, Mr Caruana adopts a condescending attitude when addressing people’s concern about the increasing dependence on foreign workers. However, policymakers will do well to study precedents where other small nation states like Malta were faced with a similar situation. Singapore has for long been considered as an economic model that Malta should emulate. In 2012, the Singapore...
  20. Temperatures in southern Australian neared 48 degrees on Thursday, shattering previous records as sizzling citizens received free beer to help weather heatwave of historic proportions. The Bureau of Meteorology reported temperatures of 47.9 Celsius (118 Fahrenheit) north of Adelaide, while inside the city temperatures reached 46.2 Celsius, a fraction above a record that had stood since 1939. Adelaide residents are used to sweltering days during the southern hemisphere summer, but even they could find very little relief from the oppressive temperatures. More than 13 towns across South Australia have smashed their own heat records, with some of the state forecast to see temperatures of 50 degrees by the end of the day.  While thousands flocked to the beach to cool off in the surf, hundreds have taken to shopping centres to stay out of the heat. At the Red Lion Hotel, publicans gave a free beer to each of their patrons while the temperature remained above 45 degrees. Around one hundred people lined up for their free drink for over one hour.  But the temperatures are also testing municipal services, with SunCity buses forced to cut their services, leaving commuters searching for...
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