Press digest

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

The Times says the minimum wage has sparked off a new row. It says single minimum wage earners will now pay some €60 in tax. It also reports how a court has upheld the ban on the play Stitching.

The Malta Independent says Labour will retain the Budget measures, including the price rises. It also says that the outcome of the PN deputy leadership race could have a bearing on the PN's election chances.

l-orizzont says Tonio Fenech has struck a blow to minimum wage earners, who are being taxed as a result of the Budget.

In-Nazzjon quotes the prime minister describing the Budget as an exercise to set the country's future.

The overseas press

The 193-nation UN General Assembly has overwhelmingly approved the de facto recognition of the sovereign state of Palestine after President Mahmoud Abbas called on the world body to issue what he called “its long-overdue birth certificate”. Reuters reports the vote – 138 in favour, nine against with 41 abstentions – led to celebrations in Gaza and Ramallah by thousands of flag-waving Palestinians who set off fireworks, sang and danced in the streets. In Bethlehem, the bells of the Church of the Nativity peeled in honour of the vote, and thousands of people crowded around to watch a live broadcast of President Abbas's speech in New York projected on the concrete of Israel's separation wall.    

al-bawaba says Syria was cut off from the rest of the world Thursday after the country’s Internet and telecommunications networks were completely shut down while the Assad regime launched a major offensive to retake control of the main road leading to Damascus airport. It was the biggest communications black-out since the uprising began 20 months ago. The Syrian regime has blamed “terrorists” for the Internet outage.

According to Al Ahram, the panel drafting Egypt’s new constitution has voted to limit presidential terms in office to two four-year terms. The assembly, made up of allies of President Mohammed Morsi, abruptly moved up the vote which hadn’t been expected to take place for another two months in order to pass the draft before Egypt’s Supreme Constitution Court rules on Sunday on whether to dissolve the panel. The constitutional draft will later be put to a public referendum.

NBC News reports the American soldier accused of passing thousands of secret US documents to the WikiLeaks website, Bradley Manning, has been giving testimony for the first time before a US military judge. He said he had been subjected to needlessly harsh treatment in detention and hopes to avoid trial by arguing that solitary confinement was sufficient punishment.

Kosova Press says Kosovo’s former prime minister Ramush Haradinaj was cleared of war crimes for a second time on Thursday by a United Nations court in The Hague. The ruling, which has angered Serbia, comes two weeks after the acquittal of a top Croatian general.

Gramma reports the Columbian government and rebels from the Farc have concluded the first stage of peace talks in Cuba aimed at ending 50 years of conflict. The chief Farc negotiator said there had been a good atmosphere around the table, adding that no timetables should be set.

The BBC says government documents just released in Britain give the fullest account yet of the killing of 11 prisoners during the Mau Mau rebellion in colonial Kenya in 1959. The files give details of a meeting, chaired by the then governor of Kenya, which found that senior prison officials had acted with “incompetence and folly” but did not warrant prosecution.

Metro reports that the British campaign group Hacked Off, which represents victims of phone hacking, has criticised British Prime Minister David Cameron for expressing misgivings about a new report damning the newspaper industry. It described his stand to accept the full recommendations of the report as "unfortunate and regrettable".  In his report, top British judge Brian Leveson said the media had "wreaked havoc with the lives of innocent people" for decades.

USA Today says two people had winning tickets in America's $550 million Powerball jackpot, beating the one-in-175 million odds for the second largest lottery in US history. Powerball's website crashed shortly after the winning numbers – 5, 23, 16, 22, 29, with Powerball 6 – were announced.

Los Angeles Times announces that Batman's car is up for sale. The Barrett-Jackson auto auction house has announced that the original 1966 Batmobile is expected to go under the hammer on January 19. The iconic vehicle, which was featured in the Batman TV series as well as the movie adaptation starring Adam West, is one of the most famous Hollywood cars in history and could fetch millions of dollars.

A tourist's photograph of a New York City police officer giving new boots to a barefoot homeless man in Times Square has created an online sensation. Jennifer Foster was visiting the city with her boyfriend on November 14 when she came across the shoeless man asking for change. As she was about to approach, she said the officer – identified as Larry DePrimo – came up to the man with a pair of all-weather boots and thermal socks on the frigid night.  DePrimo told the Newsday the homeless man "smiled from ear to ear" after getting the boots. According to The New York Times DePrimo keeps the receipt for the boots in his vest to remind him "that sometimes people have it worse".




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