Times of Malta

General, sporting, and business news for Malta and the surrounding region
  1. Teenagers who are bombarded with junk food adverts could be eating hundreds more packets of crisps, chocolate bars and fizzy drinks each year then those who are not, new research has found. Cancer Research UK said teenagers who watch more than three hours of commercial TV a day are more likely to eat hundreds of extra junk food snacks each year. The charity said junk food marketing is a "clear, consistent and cumulative risk factor" for high junk food consumption. It questioned more than 3,300 British youngsters aged 11 to 19 on their television habits and food consumption. Researchers found that those with high TV exposure were 1.9 times more likely to consume two or more sugary drinks per week and 1.8 times more likely to have a weekly takeaway. Overall, young people with high levels of advert exposure were more likely to be high consumers of junk food. When teenagers watched TV without adverts, researchers found no link between screen time and likelihood of eating more junk food. The difference between being a high consumer and a low consumer was at least 520 junk food products per year, the researchers found. "This means advert exposure may have a substantial impact on a...
  2. The winter transfer window is less than a week away and the timesofmalta.com SportsDesk is back with you to follow all the latest gossip and rumours from the football world, including the Maltese Premier League. 12.21pm Crystal Palace remain in talks over a deal for striker Khouma Babacar, with Fiorentina asking for £15m for the Senegal international, Sky Sports News is reporting. Manager Roy Hodgson wants to add another striker to his squad this month and is also interested in the Celtic forward Moussa Dembele. Babacar – a 24-year-old who has scored four times in Serie A this season after netting 10 last year – has also been watched by West Ham and West Brom. 12.05pm Good afternoon everyone and welcome to another week of transfer activity. Stay with us to follow all the latest stories including Alexis Sanchez's departure from Arsenal to either Manchester United or Manchester City.
  3. An explosion in a Russian nuclear facility in the Urals in 1957 was as damaging as the Chernobyl disaster. The Russian authorities covered it up for over 30 years. When suspiciously high levels of radioactivity were detected all over Europe in autumn 2017, questions were asked of Russia once again.
  4. The European Central Bank has "flaws" in its procedures for identifying and dealing with banks in crisis, European Union auditors said on Tuesday, casting doubts on the ECB's supervision of the main banks in the eurozone. Following the 2007-08 global financial crisis, the ECB has added to its monetary policy functions the task of supervising the top banks of the eurozone's 19 countries. It currently oversees around 120 lenders which hold over 80% of the bloc's banking assets. The ECB's supervisory unit - the Single Supervisory Mechanism (SSM) chaired by French regulator Daniele Nouy - has sweeping powers to spot and tackle emerging troubles at individual banks but does not yet have in place sufficient guidelines to exercise those powers, EU auditors said in a report published on Tuesday. "The ECB's operational framework for crisis management has some flaws and there are some signs of inefficient implementation," the European Court of Auditors (ECA) said. In their report, auditors found "deficiencies" in the procedures the ECB use to identify potential banking troubles at an early stage, and to respond to a crisis. The ECB said concerns raised by auditors had been addressed after...
  5. A misunderstanding between a missionary in Guatemala and a volunteer in Malta turned sour and ended up in court, with the volunteer accused of spreading false rumours about the missionary priest. The case against 67-year-old volunteer Luigi Duca, known as Wiġi, from Għaxaq, began when he collected €65,000 to build small, two-roomed houses in the central American country. Only 28 of the intended 55 housing units were built. A niggling doubt led Mr Duca to allege that Fr Anton Grech had not made proper use of the funds entrusted to him - an allegation which was strongly rebutted by the priest when testifying in court. Mr Duca is charged with fabricating evidence of a non-existent crime, making a false report to the police, knowingly reporting Fr Grech to the authorities for a crime he had not committed, defamation and slander. Make peace, urges bishop Testifying on Tuesday, Gozo Bishop Mario Grech expressed his wish that the matter be settled amicably. He said Mr Duca had complained to him about his relationship with Fr Anton, hinting that all was not well. After hearing the allegations, the bishop asked Mr Duca to draw up a written statement to that effect. Bishop Grech told the...
  6. Pianist Julia Miller will today be giving a lunchtime concert at St Augustine Monastery, Old Bakery Street, Valletta. In Piano Timescapes, Miller will be performing works ranging from the 18th century to the 20th century, from Beethoven to de Falla and to the modern Spanish 20th-century music. Works include Ludvig van Beethoven’s Piano Sonata Op. 31 and works from Fredric Chopin, namely 3 Preludes from Op. 28, Fantiasie and Scherzo. She will also perform Albeniz’s Valse Cotillon and Manuel de Falla’s Ritual Fire Dance. After the concert, visitors will have the opportunity to see the chambers of the monastery for free. Tickets can be obtained from the venue itself half an hour before the concert. Proceeds will go to the Augustinian Monastery restoration project. Piano Timescapes is on at St Augustine Monastery, Old Bakery Street, Valletta, today at noon. For more details, call 7968 0952 or  send an e-mail to baroccomalta@gmail.com.
  7. The annual rate of inflation as measured by the Harmonised Index of Consumer Prices in December was registered at 1.3 per cent, down from 1.5 per cent in November. The National Statistics Office said the 12-month moving average rate for December increased to 1.3 per cent. The largest upward impact mainly reflected higher furniture prices. The largest downward impact was attributed to lower prices of garments.
  8. A Council of Europe push for Malta to debate access to abortion has been firmly rebuffed by Prime Minister Joseph Muscat. COE Human Rights commissioner Nils Muiznieks had urged Dr Muscat to kick-start an “open and informed public debate on women’s access to abortion,” and to begin the process of decriminalising abortion, having said during a visit to Malta that he was “taken aback” by Malta’s “restrictive” stance on the issue. But in a reply dated January 8, Dr Muscat shot down the request, telling Mr Muižnieks  that “my Government neither has the political mandate to open a debate on access to abortion, nor the support of the public opinion on this matter”. Mr Muižnieks wrote his letter to Dr Muscat following a four-day visit to Malta held in November, during which he met with the Prime Minister, civil society members, key stakeholders and paid a visit to the Ħal Far open centre. Domestic violence In his letter, the COE commissioner urged the Maltese government to ensure that a domestic violence bill to be debated in parliament in the coming weeks gave victims adequate remedies while effectively sanctioning perpetrators. Mr Muižnieks urged Dr Muscat to allocate more money to...
  9. A trader who advertised free installation of Microsoft Windows 10 but then charged a customer a €60 fee to do so has failed to refund the customer as ordered, the Consumer Claims Tribunal said.  The customer had contacted Dario Azzopardi of 3Group after hearing a radio advert by the company advertising free installation of the operating system.  But when Mr Azzopardi installed the software, he charged the client a €60 fee. To add insult to injury, the client could not even use the installed software since Mr Azzopardi failed to provide her with a product key to activate the installation. The trader, the director general of the consumer claims tribunal said, failed to submit a reply to the consumer’s claims and did not appear at any of the sittings, about which he had been notified. He was ordered to refund the consumer the €60 paid.
  10. Questionnaires were distributed to churchgoers at 987 Masses in 329 places of worship last December. Photo: Mark Zammit Cordina

    The Mass attendance census last month was, for the first time, held in conjunction with other studies, because the Church wanted to have “a more holistic view” of the situation, a spokesman said. Questionnaires were distributed to churchgoers at 987 Masses in 329 places of worship, mainly churches or chapels, on December 2 and 3. This represents a slight drop compared to the last census, held in 2005, when 1,080 Masses were celebrated in 335 places of worship. The last census found that Sunday Mass attendance in Malta stood at 51 per cent of the total population (see http://knisja.org/ Censiment2005 ). The Church spokesman said it was still too early to compare the number of questionnaires returned last December to 2005 because they were still being processed. Some clerics have, however, openly declared they expect another drop in Church attendance. “It is not whether there has been a decrease since 2005. What we really want to find out is by how much,” one priest said just before questionnaires were distributed at the Mass he was saying. The Church spokesman pointed out that one of the reasons Archbishop Charles Scicluna decided to carry out a census was precisely to have a...
  11. The cultural programme of the Valletta 2018 Foundation. Photo: Matt Hush/Valletta 2018

    More than 400 events and 140 projects will keep Malta buzzing this year as Valletta begins its 12-month stint as European Capital of Culture. With projects divided into different strands – from performances to visual arts, music, film, education or community projects – the cultural programme places a strong emphasis on international collaboration. This festival invites everyone to take part in the opening week celebrations with a vast programme of activities livening up the streets of the capital. The cultural programme, which is available online, seeks to explore and push people’s understanding of culture and art. V18 opening week events Pjazza KriptikaAugustinian convent Within the 500-year-old Augustinian convent lies an underground waiting to be explored. The crypt and war shelters will be opened, hosting community exhibitions within the beautiful stone walls. Daily until Saturday – 9am-12pm, 5pm-9pm An Angle on the AnglicanSt Paul’s Anglican Pro-Cathedral and undercroft Set to be restored in the coming year, St Paul’s Anglican Pro-Cathedral will open its doors to the public all week, enabling visitors to explore the history inscribed into its walls, as they walk through the...
  12. Credit in 2017 and the asset class have started 2018 in the same manner as last year. Credit spreads have tightened even further and activity on the primary market have started at relatively elevated levels for this time of the year. One would have thought that credit would have fizzled at the thought of higher issuance and the thought of more bonds flooding the market, but this did not happen. The market has so far absorbed the supply in its abundance, sending valuations higher and credit spreads, particularly the higher beta yielding segment of the asset class, markedly tighter. There does not seem to be any imminent event, any particular market related move given the current prevailing conditions which have the potential of shaking credit markets and the positive tone that has lingered on from 2017. As we had stated towards the end of 2017, this comes as no particular surprise. Economic data releases so far this year indicate that the Eurozone economy for starters is on the road to recover. Ok, inflation has stalled but the most recent ECB minutes give us reason to believe that QE will continue to be unwound and possibly have a rate hike by the end of the year. Who knows?...
  13. Former Manchester United assistant manager Ryan Giggs ended an 18-month break from football when he was named Wales boss on Monday. Here, Press Association Sport looks at five things in Giggs' in-tray during his first few months in charge. Win the fans over Giggs won just about every medal in the game during a glorious 24-year playing career at United. But his hero status at Old Trafford does not extend to many Wales fans, who remember the constant withdrawals from national-team squads. Giggs' first international friendly came nine years after he made his debut as a 17-year-old and many fans questioned his commitment to Wales. Plenty of sceptics have resurfaced on social media in recent days - and Giggs needs to hit the ground running to stop those voices getting louder. Sort out backroom staff Giggs admitted the whirlwind nature of his appointment - interviewed on Thursday and unveiled on Monday - had given him little time to consider his backroom staff. His old United team-mate Paul Scholes has already been mentioned in dispatches, and the former England man certainly knew how to run a midfield. But Giggs would be wise to keep Osian Roberts on board. The Football Association...
  14. The male beauty business is booming. Shutterstock   Male grooming is now a multi-billion pound worldwide industry, thanks to a growing number of men spending more on their appearance. Face wash, moisturiser, pore strips and hair removal products are now commonly featured in many a man’s bathroom cabinet – and now also, makeup. Given that there is already a male Cover Girl spokesmodel, whole beauty sections in stores dedicated to men and articles in men’s magazines extolling the virtues of products such as concealer, it seems likely that 2018 will be the year when men’s makeup goes mainstream. Makeup companies have been trying to sell to men for decades. But the big challenge, as every marketer knows, is getting men to believe makeup can be manly. Some companies try to do this by opting for a more manlier name – rebranding mascara to manscara, eyeliner to guyliner, foundation to tinted moisturiser. Others argue that make up gives men “masculine benefits” by contouring a more pronounced jaw line, by attracting women, or by fixing so called “skin problems” (such as “patchy beards” and “lifeless eyes”). One of the more effective ways of getting men to buy make up is through male...
  15. Two people were killed and 14 injured when an explosion in the Belgian city of Antwerp destroyed three buildings. Police said two bodies were found under the debris on Tuesday following the blast on Monday evening. Five people were seriously injured and another was in a critical condition after the explosion in a part of the city where many students live. Police said an investigation was underway into the cause of the blast. They have excluded it being the result of an attack. Belgian media said it was likely to have been a gas explosion. Belgium has been on high alert since deadly suicide bombings in 2016 and a wave of Islamist attacks across Europe.
  16. The Valletta International Baroque Festival continues tomorrow with the concert Suites for Viola da Gamba and Harpsichord by Corelli, Forqueray, Duphly and dall’Abaco, performed by viola da gamba player Teodoro Baù and harpsichordist Andrea Buccarella at St Augustine’s church at noon. Another concert, titled Inspired by Baroque, will see the Malta Philharmonic Orchestra, under the direction of Riccardo Bianchi, with oboe player Diego Dini Ciacci and clarinettist Fabrizio Meloni, at the Manoel Theatre at 7.30pm. For more information and tickets, visit www.vallettabaroquefestival.com.mt.
  17. The EU’s proposed new labour law aims to secure the utmost protection for vulnerable workers.

    A directive intended to bolster the current legal rights of employees in Europe is in the pipeline. This legislative measure, recently proposed by the European Commission, promises to set out more transparent and predictable working conditions for European workers. A 1991 directive, which forms part of the EU’s labour law acquis, obliges employers to provide employees with a document containing the essential elements of the employment contract. Such information must include the identity of the parties and the place of work, the nature of the job, the date the contract begins and its duration, the amount of payment, normal working hours as well as the collective agreements governing the employee’s conditions of work. The employer is currently obliged to provide this document to the employee within two months from the commencement of employment. Taking into consideration the ever-changing realities of Europe’s labour market and, in particular, the varying forms of employment which have come to exist, the European Commission has realised that this directive is in need of a radical overhaul. To this end, the recently- proposed law seeks to put into place a number of legislative...
  18. VGH has not managed to keep to the concession milestones in the agreement with the government.

    The government has tied future administrations to pay €80 million in taxpayers’ money to Vitals Global Healthcare (VGH) to give back the title of the land and buildings of the Karin Grech and Gozo General hospitals, the Times of Malta can reveal. Also, despite stating that three public hospitals had been given to VGH for 30 years, parts of the concession agreements, kept secret by the government, show that in the case of St Luke’s Hospital, Vitals can keep it and all its grounds for a total of 99 years. Read: Government gave consent for VGH sale after agreement was signed This emerges from leaked details of the multimillion-euro deal signed between the government and VGH – an unknown company in the healthcare sector. The government had blacked out extracts of the deal when it was made available to Parliament. The Times of Malta is informed that while VGH are currently paying measly ground rent rates for the three hospitals – €309,000 a year for St Luke’s, €59,000 for Karin Grech and €157,000 for the Gozo General Hospital – the government has tied future administrations to paying €80 million if they decide to take back the title on Karin Grech and Gozo’s only general hospital at...
  19. A wayward wallaby was chased by police after bounding across the Sydney Harbour Bridge. The adult male was captured without any apparent serious injury and is expected to be released back into the wild within days. The startled wallaby hopped across the bridge's eight lanes of traffic an hour before sunrise then turned onto an expressway on the harbour's southern shore toward the Sydney Opera House. A pursuing police car with flashing lights videoed the animal's steady bounding before police officers captured him near the Sydney Conservatorium of Music and wrangled him into a horse float, police said. Veterinarian Larry Vogelnest said the wallaby was "quite distressed" but he gave it a tranquilliser before taking it to the wildlife hospital at nearby Taronga Zoo. "It had some minor grazes on its face and its hind legs," Mr Vogelnest told reporters. "There don't seem to be any major injuries." Mr Vogelnest said he did not know where the wallaby had come from or how it found its way to the bridge. "It's unusual obviously to have a wallaby running around on the Harbour Bridge, but there are more and more of these wallabies turning up in bush land close to the city," he said. Police...
  20. Thirteen siblings have been rescued by police after a number of them were found chained to beds in "foul-smelling surroundings". A 17-year-old girl called police after escaping from her family's California home where she and her 12 brothers and sisters were locked up, some so malnourished officers at first believed all were children even though seven are adults. The girl, who was so small officers initially believed she was only 10, called 911 and was met by police who interviewed her and then went to the family home in Perris, about 70 miles southeast of Los Angeles. They found several children shackled to their beds with chains and padlocks in dark, according to the Riverside County Sheriff's Department. The children, ages two to 29, "appeared to be malnourished and very dirty," according to officers who arrested the parents. David Allen Turpin, 57, and Louise Anna Turpin, 49, each were held on $9 million bail and could face charges including torture and child endangerment. It was not immediately known if they had lawyers. Neighbours said they were stunned by the arrests. Andrew Santillan, who lives around the corner, heard about the case from a friend. "I had no idea this was...
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