Press digest

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

The Times reports that the tobacco lobby is trying to dilute the new EU tobacco directive. It also says that Finance Minister Tonio Fenech will be a candidate in the PN election for deputy leader.

The Malta Independent says MEPs are continuing to insist on access to the OLAF report on John Dalli.

In-Nazzjon reports how Malta International Airport had a record year of passenger movements. It also says that Mepa has approved a karting circuit for Hal Far.

l-orizzont says the allocation of social housing has tripled as the general election approaches. It also reports the passing away of journalist Lino Cassar.

The overseas press

Bloomberg reports President Hu Jintao has said China must double per-capita income by 2020, setting a target for the incoming generation of leaders to be unveiled at the close of a Communist Party Congress that started on Thursday. Earlier, Hu warned that corruption threatened both the party and the state, but said the party must stay in charge as it battles growing social unrest. In an address to more than 2,000 party delegates before he hands over power to Vice President Xi Jinping , Hu acknowledged that public anger over graft had undermined the party's support and led to surging numbers of protests.

The Washington Times says newly re-elected US President Obama will visit Burma later this month to meet President Thein Sein and Opposition Leader Aung Sang Su Kyi. His tour of South East Asia will also include stops in Thailand and Cambodia.

According to ABC, President Obama is to make his first comments on the economy and the financial crisis as the White House makes the issue its top post-election priority. The move underscored the vital importance of averting severe year-end tax increases and spending cuts as Obama heads towards a second term. Meanwhile, Tokyo stocks opened down 1.07 percent on Friday after the yen strengthened amid investor jitters over the looming US "fiscal cliff" – a combination of spending cuts and tax hikes – that could herald a recession approaching at the end of the year. Worries over eurozone debt problems also kept the common currency under pressure.

Iran does not rule out direct talks with Washington but says they will not come overnight. AFP says that at a forum on democracy in Indonesia President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad lambasted democracy in the West as having "turned into the rule of a minority over the majority". His comments came as the Pentagon announced that Iranian warplanes fired multiple rounds at an unarmed US surveillance aircraft in international airspace over the Gulf last week. The craft was undamaged and returned safely to its base.

The Daily Telegraph reports Britain's tax authorities have launched an investigation into HSBC bank over offshore accounts opened in Jersey by serious criminals living in the UK. The list is reported to include a convicted drug dealer now in Venezuela, a man convicted of possessing hundreds of weapons and three bankers facing major fraud claims. The bank on Monday increased the amount set aside for fines linked to money-laundering in the United States to $1.5 billion, adding it could face criminal charges over the matter.

The Independent says Philip Schofield, the British TV presenter, has apologised for ambushing Prime Minister David Cameron with a list of suspected paedophiles, saying he would never have been involved in any kind of witch hunt. Sources close to Cameron said he was not happy about being handed a list of suspected abusers on ITV's This Morning and warned there was a danger that the current hunt for child abusers turned into a "witch-hunt" against gay people

Arizona's KVOA TV says Jared Lee Loughner, the gunman who shot US congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in a massacre that left six others dead, has been given seven life sentences plus 140 years in jail. Loughner pleaded guilty in August to the January 2011 attack. Ms Giffords was in court for the sentencing.

The New York Times says a new storm has hit the US East Coast, knocking out power for another 275,000 people in New Jersey and New York as temperatures neared freezing. Some 760,000 people are now without power in the same region hit by superstorm Sandy last week. New York mayor Michael Bloomberg and civic officials on Long Island have decided to start rationing petrol in the wake of devastating storms.

Metro reports Malala, the 15-year-old being treated in Britain for gunshot wounds inflicted by the Taliban in Pakistan, has thanked her global supporters, one month on from the brutal attack. Her father Ziauddin Yousafzai said she wanted him to tell everyone how grateful she was and was amazed that so many people were interested in her well-being.

France 24 says Valérie Trierweiler, the girlfriend of French President François Hollande, is seeking €85,000 in damages from the authors and editor of a book that claims she two-timed the Socialist leader with a prominent right-winger. Trierweiler has sued the for defamation and infringement of her right to privacy.

According to L’Avvenire, Pope Benedict XVI is to start tweeting from a personal Twitter account. The 85-year-old Pontiff had sent his first tweet from a Vatican account last year when he launched the Vatican's news information portal.

The Hollywood Reporter reports Spanish actor Javier Bardem, who plays the villain in the latest 007 movie, got his own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame – two days before the US release of "Skyfall". He was the first Spaniard to be nominated for an Academy Award and the first to win one, for best supporting actor in the 2007 film "No Country for Old Men". Married to actress Penelope Cruz, he got his first English-speaking role in "Before Night Falls" in 2000, and has since made his mark firmly on the big screen internationally.



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