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Press digest

The following are the top stories in the Maltese and overseas press.

The Times of Malta reports that the number of people who were boarded out has been halved in eight years, partly as a result of a campaign to stamp out benefit fraud.

The Malta Independent says the PN needs 4,000 switchers in the European Parliament elections.

In-Nazzjon leads with PN plans to present a judicial protest over the citizenship scheme.

l-orizzont claims that alleged usury involving former Gharb mayor David Apap Agius reaches a million euro. The former mayor denies the claims.

The overseas press

The Syrian government has agreed to allow women and children to leave besieged rebel-held areas of the central city of Homs. Press TV quotes UN mediator Lakhdar Brahimi saying the evacuation may be able to start as soon as today. As many as 3,000 people may be trapped in the neighbourhood, which has been under siege for 18 months.  

Kyiv Post reports dozens of Ukrainian protesters have seized the justice ministry in Kiev, smashing its windows. The protesters did not appear to have encountered any resistance. Opposition leaders earlier confirmed the nationwide protests had spread to the president's eastern heartland. Europe has urged dialogue between the two sides, a call echoed by Pope Francis who voiced hope in his weekly Angelus prayer on St Peter's Square that “the search for common good may prevail in the hearts of all”.

Egypt has announced early presidential elections likely to anoint the general who overthrew Islamist president Mohamed Morsi, as the country reeled after a weekend that killed dozens of people. Al Ahram says interim president Adly Mansour declared the poll in a televised address, a day after 49 people died in clashes between Islamist protesters and police, and as thousands rallied in Cairo in support of military chief General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

Le Parisien reports French police clashed with thousands of right-wing extremists who crowded the streets of Paris to protest against François Hollande and his progressive policies, including gay marriage. At least 150 people have been arrested and 12 police officers have been injured. Law enforcement officials used tear gas to break up the crowds of young people who were throwing bottles and firecrackers.

Fox News says a brain-dead, pregnant Texas woman’s body was removed from life support   as the hospital keeping her on machines against her family’s wishes acceded to a judge’s ruling that it was misapplying state law. Marlise Munoz’s body will be buried by her husband and parents, after John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth announced it would not fight the judge’s order to pronounce her dead and return her body to her family. The hospital had earlier argued they were duty-bound to protect the unborn child.

American whistleblower Edward Snowden said he fears the US government wants him dead. In an interview for the German public television chain ARD, Snowden said US government officials had declared “they would love to put a bullet in my head or poison me when I come out of the supermarket, and then watch as I die in the shower”. Snowden quoted an article on Buzzfeed, in which Pentagon members expressed their desire to kill him.

Deutsche Welle says Germany's centre-left Social Democrats have confirmed the European Parliament's current president Martin Schulz as their top German candidate for the 28-nation bloc's election in May. He got 97.3 percent backing at a special Social Democratic (SPD) party conference in Berlin. Schulz, who became the euro parliament's president in 2012, is also tipped to be endorsed in early March by the second-largest bloc of Socialists and Democrats in the Strasbourg-based assembly as their candidate for the European Commission's top job, replacing Portugal's Jose Manuel Barroso.

Ansa says Pope Francis has written a message to Rabbi Abraham Skorka in Buenos Aires, which will be read today during the violin concert to commemorate International Holocaust Remembrance Day in Rome. Pope Francis and Rabbi Skorka co-authored a book titled “On Heaven and Earth” in 2010. “I hope that whoever participates in this event can feel those historic tears, and that each of us, through the violins, will feel the strong urge to make sure such horrors, which are a disgrace to humanity, never happen again,” the Pope said. . .

A boat carrying local tourists capsized today in India’s Andaman Sea in the Bay of Bengal, killing 21 people. Thirteen were rescued, said administrator P Jawahar. Rescuers were looking for another nine people believed to be missing, CNN-IBN television news channel reported. The boat sank off the eastern Andaman and Nicobar Islands, and initial reports said the tourists were all Indians. Jawahar said authorities were investigating the cause of the sinking.

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