Press digest

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

The Times and Malta Today say that an old man who was run over by the head of the Security Service has died of natural causes. The head, Godfrey Scicluna, has suspended himself  from the service. The accident happened six months ago.

The Malta Independent carries an interview with former Labour leader Karmenu Mifsud Bonnici who says that the PL has changed beyond recognition. He said he worries about the party’s shift on the economy and foreign affairs and disagrees that the PN was needed in 1987 as Joseph Muscat has been saying.

In-Nazzjon and l-orizzont both give prominence to the mass meetings held yesterday by the PN and the PL respectively.

The overseas press

CNN announces that Ben Afflec’s “Argo” has won the Best Picture Award at the Oscars ceremony held in los Angeles during the night. Best Director was Ang Lee wins for "Life of Pi”. The Best Actor Award went to Daniel Day-Lewis for his work in "Lincoln" and Jennifer Lawrence was voted Best Actress for her role in "Silver Linings Playbook". Anne Hathaway won the Best Supporting Actress for her role in "Les Miserables" while Christoph Waltz won the first award of the night, as best supporting actor for his role in "Django Unchained". The Best foreign language film award went to "Amour."

Polling stations across Italy have opened in the second day of the general election which ends at 3.00p.m. First results are expected late in the evening. Ansa reports voter turnout for Sunday was 46.8 per cent – a drop of 2.41 per cent when compared to the 49.21 per cent of 2008. The bad weather did not influence turnout in the provinces of Turin, Veneto and Emilia Romagna, where voter figures were positive, but Lombardy registered a sizable decrease. Turnout in the province of Rome increased while voting figures dropped across the board in the southern regions.

Corriere della Sera says a group of topless women, members of the Ukrainian women’s rights group Femen, were dragged away by police when they protested against former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi as he voted in a Milan school. The protesters shouted “Basta (Enough) Berlusconi”. The same words were painted on their bodies. Police quickly grabbed the women and roughly bundled them away.

Avvenire reports Pope Benedict has given his final Sunday blessing from his studio window to the cheers of tens of thousands of people in St Peter’s Square, assuring Catholics world-wide that even though he was retiring from the papacy on Thursday, he was “not abandoning the Church”. Instead, he said he would serve the Church with the same dedication he has until now, but will do so in a way “more suitable to my age and my strength”. Benedict, 85, will spend his last years in prayer, meditation and seclusion in a monastery on Vatican City’s grounds. But his last days in the job are being overshadowed by a new scandal involving the UK's most senior Catholic. Cardinal Keith O'Brien, leader of the Catholic Church in Scotland, is accused of acting inappropriately towards other priests 30 years ago – claims which are being contested.

Le Soir quotes European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso telling the newly-elected president of Cyprus, Nikos Anastasiades that the European Union supported efforts towards the reunification of Cyprus. Barroso said the people of Cyprus had given Anastasiades an overwhelming mandate to take his reform programme forward and the EC will assist Cyprus with this challenge. Conservative Anastasiades won Cyprus’s presidential run-off election by one of the widest margins in 30 years: 57.48 per cent of the votes, far ahead of left-wing rival Stavros Malas’ 42.51 per cent.

El Pais reports that Spanish police have arrested 45 people in the wake of anti-austerity demonstrations in Madrid. With tens of thousands voicing their opposition to the conservative Rajoy government's budget and public sector cuts, a small group of demonstrators lingered on the streets at the end of the day's rallies, taking on anti-riot police. The clashes led to some 40 injured, among whom 12 police officers.

Haaretz announces that thousands of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli custody launched a one-day hunger strike on Sunday over the death of a 30-year old inmate in what prison authorities said was cardiac arrest, as security forces clashed with stone-throwing demonstrators. The Palestinian Prisoners Association claims Megiddo jail inmate Arafat Jaradat died as a consequence of torture. The incident threatens to jeopardise any prospect of peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

Gramma announces that President Raul Castro of Cuba has announced that he would be standing down in five years’ time. He was speaking after being re-elected by the National Assembly which also chose 52-year-old rising star Miguel Diaz-Canel as his first vice president, first in line to succeed Castro. He is the highest-ranking Cuban official who didn't directly participate in the 1959 Cuban revolution. Cuba's former leader Fidel Castro made a rare public appearance at the opening session of the assembly – his second visit to the assembly since he fell ill in 2006 and handed power to his brother.

The BBC says the new US Secretary of State John Kerry has arrived in London at the start of his first overseas trip in the role. He will visit nine countries across Europe and the Middle East.

The Times reports that British Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has denied covering up allegations of sexual misconduct by the former chief executive of his Liberal Democrat Party. Lord Rennards is accused of inappropriately touching female party members and activists several years ago, an allegation he strongly denies.

Ethos says Greek prison guards have foiled a daring attempt to spring at least four inmates using a helicopter. Officials said the helicopter carrying four passengers approached the prison in the central city of Trikala and a rope was lowered and someone inside opened fire on the guards, who fired back. One of the inmates, a convicted murderer and racketeer serving a life term was shot in the leg. The helicopter was forced to land outside the prison wall and its occupants have been arrested.



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