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Press digest

The following are the top stories in the national and international press today.

The Times leads with a story about the arrested Medavia chiefs saying that the Maltese government wants access to the arrested managers, one of whom is also a Maltese citizen. In another story, it says that banks saw their loan portfolios deteriorate further on the back of a persistent slump in the construction and real estate sectors.

The Independent leads with electoral proposals to political parties by the Forum of Organisations for People with a Disability. In another story it says that the deficit has widened by €63.8 million.

L-Orizzont also leads with a story on the increase in the country’s debt and deficit. The newspaper also speaks with the newly elected PL deputy leader Louis Grech.

In-Nazzjon leads with the opening of Daniel’s Shopping Centre in Hamrun. In another story, it says 1,500 cataracts operations have been carried out in private hospitals.

The international press

Asia One News says the 23-year-old Indian student gang-raped on a bus in Delhi last week has died. Earlier, doctors treating the woman in a Singapore hospital had said her condition had deteriorated and there were indications she had severe organ failure. The woman was brutally attacked by at least six men on a bus on December 16, raped for nearly an hour, beaten with an iron bar and thrown out of the moving vehicle. She was transported to Singapore for medical treatment on Thursday and diagnosed with infections in her lungs and abdomen, as well as significant brain injury. She had also suffered from cardiac arrest. The attack had sparked demonstrations across India, culminating last weekend in pitched battles between police and protesters outraged over the lack of safety for women in the capital.

Former EU Commission president Jacques Delors has said Britain could leave the European Union and enter into a different sort of partnership with the political and economic bloc instead. Delors told the business daily Handelsblatt that the British were solely concerned about their economic interests. In an interview with The Guardian newspaper on Thursday, EU President Herman Van Rompuy warned that such proposals could cause the EU to unravel.

Ansa quotes outgoing Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti saying he would lead a coalition of centrist parties who support his European and reform-minded agenda in the parliamentary election in February. His allies include centrists, businessmen and pro-Vatican forces and their stated goal is to infuse ethics into Italian politics as well as renewed vigor for economic reforms. Meanwhile, it has been announced that for the first time in 140 years, the popular Viareggio Carnival, which attracts thousands of tourists, has been postponed to March 3 because of the elections.

Kathemerini says that the Greek socialist party, Pasok, has expelled the former Finance Minister, George Papaconstantinou, over allegations he deleted the names of relatives from a list of Greeks who held Swiss bank accounts. The list is being used to investigate possible tax evasion by Greece's elite. Papaconstantinou, who introduced Greece's first austerity programme as the country tried to rein back its escalating debt, denies any wrongdoing.

Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has agreed to pay his estranged wife Veronica Lario €100,000 euros a day as part of a divorce settlement. Corriere della Sera reports the €36 million-a-year settlement, reached after three years of negotiations, was filed with a court in Milan around Christmas. The report comes shortly after Mr Berlusconi's return to frontline politics to lead the centre-right campaign ahead of an election in February.

The Washington Post says US president Barack Obama is "modestly optimistic" a deal could be reached with the Republicans to resolve the so-called fiscal cliff crisis that could trigger a recession and rock global markets. After meeting top congressional leaders, Obama said senate Democrats and Republicans would work overtime this weekend to try to head off a $US500 billion time bomb of tax hikes and spending cuts before a January 1 deadline. But he warned if they failed, he would demand a vote in Congress on his own suggestion, to raise taxes on all American families earning over $250,000 a year and for an extension of unemployment insurance for 2 million people.

Manila Times reports that after 13 years of deliberations, the Philippines parliament has finally passed a controversial reproductive health law which allows it a more active role in the campaign for birth control. Under the new law, which pits the government against the influential Catholic Church, the government will provide the public, particularly poor women, with more information and access to birth control methods. It also grants the government responsibility of educating public school students on reproductive health and allows the distribution of birth control methods to minors.

Moscow Times says Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed into law a ban on Americans adopting Russian orphans. The law is a reaction to the US Magnitsky Act, which blacklists Russian officials accused of rights abuses. The US State Department says it "deeply regrets" the passing of the law.

Asia Times says China has amended a law to require that adults visit their aged parents “often” – or risk being sued by them. The law does not specify how frequently such visits should occur. The new clause comes as reports abound of elderly parents being abandoned or ignored by their children. A rapidly developing China is facing increasing difficulty in caring for its ageing population.

London’s Daily Mail reports athletes, coaches and organisers from London 2012 Olympic Games make up 10 per cent of the New Year's Honours list, with a staggering 127 awards handed out to those involved. Britain's first Tour de France winner Bradley Wiggins is to be knighted, along with sailing champion Ben Ainslie. But people's favourites Jessica Ennis and Mo Farah missed out on top honours and were awarded CBEs.

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