Press digest

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

The Times says some petrol stations are selling self-imported fuel but motorists are awaiting diesel competition benefits. It also says a Magistrate has been accused of political bias in a vote-rigging case. The claim was made by PL deputy leader Anġlu Farrugia.

The Malta Independent reports how Joseph Muscat said yesterday that the Prime Minister chose Austin Gatt over the country's stability.

In-Nazzjon quotes the prime minister saying that the PN has the best policies to create opportunities  for the people. It also says that important evidence in the case of the alleged bribery of Judge Ray Pace is expected to be presented this morning.

l-orizzont says Joseph Muscat promised that Labour would give more in government than in the election campaign.  It also reports how a cat was found crucified in Mosta.

The overseas press

VOA News quotes President Barack Obama saying the US shares in the grief of the Connecticut town devastated by Friday's shootings at the Sandy Hook elementary school. Speaking at an inter-faith vigil in Newtown, he told victims' families: “I come to offer the love and prayers of a nation. You are not alone in your grief. All across this land of ours we have wept with you.” Twenty children and six women died in the assault on school by 20-year-old Adam Lanza, who shot dead his mother before driving to the school in her car, opening fire on his victims and then killing himself.

Tripoli Post says the Libyan parliament has ordered the temporary closure of its southern borders with Sudan, Niger, Chad and Nigeria and declared seven southern regions restricted military areas government by emergency law. A spokesman said the move was intended at stemming the flow of illegal immigrants and goods. The move comes after the European Union proposed to help train Libyans to secure their southern borders and prevent the trafficking of arms from the country.

Clarin reports Argentina has imposed a 30 million peso (€4.7 million) fine on a local subsidiary of HSBC for failing to report suspicious transactions, in what regulatory officials said was a clear-cut case of money laundering. Justice Department officials said the sum should have raised red flags at HSBC, given the group's relatively modest profile. Last week, officials in the United State found that HSBC's parent flouted US sanctions on Iran and other countries and laundered Mexican drug money to build its business, and hit it with a massive $1.92 billion (€1.5 billion) in fines.

France 24 reports that some 150,000 of demonstrators gathered in Paris on Sunday in support of the government’s plans to legalise same sex marriage and adoption. The issue, which has drawn opposition, is due to be debated in parliament January 29.

Syria's vice president has called for a "historic settlement" of the country's civil war and the creation of a national unity government. In an interview with a Lebanese newspaper al-Akhbar, Farouq al-Sharaa said neither the government nor the opposition could win a decisive victory by force. He said noted that neither the rebels nor government has the military ability to reach what he called "a conclusive end". Al-Sharaa said such a settlement must include stopping all shapes of violence, and the creation of a national unity government with wide powers.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has urged combatants in Syria to avoid Palestinian refugees and their camps. In a brief statement published by the official Palestinian news agency, Wafa, Abbas said there was concern after reports that a Syrian MIG aircraft bombed parts of the Yarmouk camp for Palestinian refugees in the Syrian capital Damascus. The London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said eight people had been killed. Heavy clashes between local committees and armed rebels were also reportedly taking place in the camp.

Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad has called for a boycott of Israeli products in response to withholding Palestinian tax revenues. Al Ayyam quotes Fayyad saying that the Palestinian National Authority was in “a very dangerous situation”. Israel decided earlier this month to withhold more than $100 million of monthly tax revenues it collects for the PNA in response to upgrading the Palestinian status in the United Nations to a non-member observer state. The withholding prevented the PA from paying November wages to about 150,000 employees on its payroll.

Fuji TV quotes Shinzo Abe, the man who would become Japan’s next prime minister, calling on the Chinese government to make more effort to improve its relations with Japan. He was speaking after his Liberal Democratic Party’s win in the country’s general election. According to public broadcaster NHK’s vote count, Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party captured 294 seats in the 480-member lower house of parliament yesterday, while Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda’s Democratic Party of Japan lost 75 per cent of its lawmakers.

French film star Gérard Depardieu says he is handing back his French passport and social security card in protest at the tax increases by France’s Socialist President François Hollande. Under new rules, Those earning more than €1 million will pay 75 per cent income tax. In an open letter to the weekly Journal du Dimanche, Depardieu accused France’s Socialist government of punishing “success, creativity and talent” and that artists were being treated unfairly. He said he had paid €145 million in tax during his career.

Ansa says it’s official. Silvio Berlusconi has announced it himself on Domenica Live yesterday: he is engaged to a Neopolitan girl called Francesca, 48 years his junior, whom he described as “a beautiful girl on the outside but even more beautiful inside”. He said they had known each other for seven years as she was the president of a club in Naples called “Silvio we miss you”, which she changed to “Silvio I miss you”. The cavaliere said he now feels “less alone”.

O Globo reports Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff has inaugurated the first stadium to be renovated for the 2014 football World Cup. She kicked the ball in the Castelao stadium in the northeastern Brazilian city of FortalezaThe biggest of the northeastern venues, Castelao will host six World Cup matches including one of Brazil's in the first round, a second-round game and a quarter-final. It will also host three Confederations Cup matches including Brazil's group stage meeting with Mexico on June 19, the stadium's debut in an official FIFA tournament. FIFA has repeatedly expressed concern that Brazil may not be ready on time but the Castelao stadium met the deadline.



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