Press digest

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

The Times says a 2009 Enemalta report deemed a gas pipeline as the most viable option for gas delivery to Malta. It also reports a casual comment by Joseph Muscat that he would step down if Labour does not deliver on its energy plan.

The Malta Independent reports how the prime minister said the PN is the agent of change. It also quotes Joseph Muscat saying that a gas pipeline has not been ruled out.

In-Nazzjon quotes the prime minister saying the PN means a secure future for job creation.

l-orizzont says PN plans for Malta to have a gas pipeline are eight years too late.

The overseas press

ABC reports fire authorities in Australia are working in hot and windy conditions to gain the upper hand on fires burning out of control across south-east Australia. The situation remains serious in New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania, while crews are on standby in Central Australia. More than 100 bushfires are burning in New South Wales alone, and 18 are uncontained. A new report from the Federal Government's Climate Commission says the heatwave and bushfires that have affected Australia this week have been exacerbated by global warming. The report warns of more extreme bushfires and hotter, longer, bigger and more frequent heatwaves, due to climate change.

Belfast Telegraph says police in Northern Ireland fired water cannon and at least one plastic bullet round at rioters after they were attacked with bricks and bottles in the latest outbreak of anger at the removal of the British flag from Belfast City Hall. Hundreds of loyalist youths blocked roads across Belfast and set a double-decker bus on fire in the latest protests. Police said at least eight roads around the city had been closed by protesters.

Le Monde quotes French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius confirming that the French air force had carried out an air strike in Mali in support of government forces trying to push back Islamist rebels. The raid came as France launched a military intervention in the west African state to help the government resist a push south by rebel forces. Western powers fear the alliance of al Qaeda-linked militants that seized the northern two-thirds of Mali in April will seek to use the vast desert zone as a launchpad for international attacks.

The Washington Times reports President Barack Obama has said NATO troops would speed up a transfer of lead security responsibility to Afghan forces this spring, in a sign the pace of US troop withdrawals could quicken. After meeting President Hamid Karzai to chart Afghanistan's future, Obama insisted the United States had achieved its target there of "decapitating" Al-Qaeda, despite falling short of heady early goals for Afghan reconstruction.

Al-bawaba says anti-regime rebels overran Idlib province's Taftanaz airbase, the largest in northern Syria, on Friday after days of fierce fighting. Regime fighters have launched air strikes in a bid to take back the base.

As the US grapples with an earlier-than-normal season, The Boston Herald says two more people over 65 have died in Boston after contracting the flu – including for the first time this season, a child – bringing the total to six. According to government estimates, 47 states were reporting widespread influenza and 24 other states showing high disease activity.  Nationally, 20 children have died from the flu. There is no tally of adult deaths, but it is estimated that the flu kills about 24,000 people in an average year.

L’Echo says the Belgian government was considering limiting financial support to the royal family after rebuking Queen Fabiola for setting up a special inheritance system widely seen as a tax dodge. Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo said he planned to change the system by which the royals get €15 million a year to fulfil their duties and force them to show what the funds are spent on. The 84-year-old Queen is facing widespread accusations from politicians and media that a special private fund she set up is seeking to shield some of her fortune from inheritance taxes at a time when her people are struggling through tough economic times.

Al Watan says King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia has granted women 30 seats on the Shura Council, which reviews laws and questions ministers, but does not have legislative powers. Since 2006, women have been appointed as advisers only. The decree comes in response to rights advocates' demands to give a voice to women.

A report by British police on the late BBC presenter, Jimmy Savile, says he was "a prolific, predatory sex offender" whose abuse spanned six decades. The Daily Mirror says British police have established that the late Savile committed 214 crimes across the nation including 34 rapes or serious sexual assaults across the country, using his celebrity status and fundraising activity to gain uncontrolled access to vulnerable people. Savile is alleged to have abused children at 14 hospitals and even a hospice for the dying. Of his victims, 73 per cent were under 18 and 82 per cent were female – the oldest was 47 and the youngest just 8.

Aviation and Space Weekly reports US regulators are conducting a comprehensive review of the design, manufacture and assembly of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, even while government officials declared the plane safe. The move follows recent incidents including a fire and a fuel leak. The agency wants to find out why the safety-related incidents are occurring.

South Wales Echo rays Welsh rugby star Jason Tovey has been forced to pull out of an international clash at the last minute after his pet puppy ate his passport. Red-faced Tovey, 23, was in the doghouse on Friday night after calling up his coach to explain he would not be part of today's line-up. He was due to play for the Cardiff Blues against Toulon in France in a Heineken Cup clash. News of his plight rapidly became a talking point among rugby fans on Twitter with many making comical comments about his mishap. Despite his disappointment Tovey himself, who will now watch the match on television, was able to see the funny side.




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