Press digest

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

The Sunday Times publishes an election survey, saying the PN has gained, but Labour still enjoys a strong lead. It also says that a superbug offensive is saving patients.

The Malta Independent on Sunday focuses on Lawrence Gonzi’s campaigning in Gozo yesterday and on Labour’s plan to allow civil partnerships for gay couples.

MaltaToday says that according to its election survey, the PL has regained lost ground and now leads the PN by 11 points.

It-Torca says that according to the energy plan issued late last year, the government was planning to build another power station within seven years.

Il-Mument says EU data shows Malta leading in job-creation. It also says that in two months, Simon Busuttil triumphed in debates against PL deputy leaders Anglu Farrugia, Toni Abela and Louis Grech.

Illum quotes Franco Debono saying that PN criticism of the PL’s energy plan does not have credibility.  

KullHadd quotes former Nationalist Minister Jesmond Mugliette saying Labour’s energy policy is innovative and achievable.

The overseas press

Le Figaro announces that French President François Hollande has ordered security in the country to be tightened following the launch of French military operations in Mali to combat Islamist rebels. A French special forces’ helicopter pilot was killed in the fighting on Saturday.

Britain is to transport foreign troops and equipment to Mali amid efforts to halt an advance by rebels. Metro says the move was agreed in a telephone conversation between Prime Minister David Cameron and President Hollande. Downing Street stressed that no UK troops would engage in combat operations.

Meanwhile, Le Monde quotes the French Defence Ministry saying a French military agent was killed by his Islamist captors during a French commando raid in Somalia. A French soldier and 17 Islamists were also killed in the failed rescue attempt. The secret service agent, code-named  Denis Allex, was kidnapped by the militant Islamist group al-Shabaab in Mogadishu in 2009. His Somali captors, however, claim they are holding Allex alive and said they had a new captive, a French commando wounded in the fighting.

ABC says train services were suspended western Queensland as a safety precaution amid fears tracks might buckle in the scorching heat. Yesterday temperatures in the state's south-west reached 49 degrees – their hottest January day since records began. Meanwhile, fire-fighters in New South Wales were still working to control fires in Victoria and Tasmania, while the threat from fires in Central Australia has eased.

Irish News reports 29 Northern Ireland police officers have been injured while battling to quell sectarian clashes in Belfast following the decision by Belfast City Council last December to restrict the number of days the British flag is flown at City Hall to 18 a year. Police used water cannons and fired plastic bullets during the clashes yesterday’s clashes in east Belfast.

According to La Republica, shaken survivors and grieving relatives of the 32 victims of the Costa Concordia cruise ship disaster are in Italy to mark the first anniversary of the tragedy when the 290-metre liner, with 4,229 people from 70 countries on board, crashed into a group of rocks just off the island of Giglio. The commemorations today will a mass by Father Lorenzo Pasquotti who plans to display objects that survivors left behind – life jackets, emergency blankets, even discarded rolls of bread – next to the altar, underneath a Madonna statue salvaged from the ship's chapel.

Ansa reports Italy's consul to Benghazi Guido De Sanctis escaped unhurt after an attack on his bullet-proof car in the city. De Sanctis, 51, has been in Benghazi since the start of the uprising against Gaddafi in February 2011. He is due to leave for a new posting in Qatar next week.

Haaretz says Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has closed roads leading to a strategic West Bank site in preparation to evacuate Palestinians who pitched tents there to protest at plans to build a Jewish housing project. Activists said they want to establish a village on the site. Israel announced it is moving forward with the E-1 settlement after the UN recognised a de facto state of Palestine in the West Bank, Gaza and east Jerusalem in November.

Radio Praha reports that the Czech Republic’s former leftist prime minister Milos Zeman and conservative Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg will compete in next fortnight’s presidential run-off after no candidate managed to win a majority in the first round. With the votes from almost all of the 15,000 polling stations counted, Zeman was leading with 24.24 percent of the vote, followed by Schwarzenberg with 23.34 percent. Another former premier, Jan Fischer, was a distant third with 16.37 percent.

CNN says Aaron Swartz, co-creator of the social news site Reddit and an advocate for online information-sharing, killed himself in his Brooklyn apartment. Swartz was facing computer fraud charges in a trial due to start next month.

e! entertainment tv says  Hollywood hits the red carpet this evening for the Golden Globes, Tinseltown's biggest pre-Oscars awards show, with Steven Spielberg, Ben Affleck and Quentin Tarantino among those eyeing major prizes. Days after topping nominations for the Academy Awards, Spielberg's political drama "Lincoln" is the frontrunner for Globes glory, with seven nods, ahead of Affleck's Iran drama "Argo" and Tarantino's "Django Unchained," both with five nominations. Other drama films tipped include Tom Hooper's musical adaptation "Les Miserables," dark rom-com "Silver Linings Playbook" and Osama bin Laden hunt movie "Zero Dark Thirty," which tied for third place with four Globes nods.

Chicago Tribune reports detectives are planning to search under an apartment complex for the bodies of possible victims of serial killer John Wayne Gacy who was convicted of murdering 33 young men. The search would be the latest twist in one of the most terrifying crime sprees in American history. Gacy, who was arrested in 1978, convicted in 1980 and executed in 1994, has been the subject of countless articles and books, as well as at least one film.



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