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

The Times of Malta and the Malta Independent report how Fitch downgraded Malta's long term credit ratings.

The Times of Malta also reports that a company has not delivered school uniforms on time. It also says that Sandro Chetcuti will retain his place on government boards despite being convicted of slightly injuring Vince Farrugia and being handed a suspended jail term.

In-Nazzjon says the agreement for a Chinese company to buy a stake in Enemalta was made behind the people's backs and without a call for tender. 

l-orizzont says an Enemalta financial official accused a former CEO of false evidence before the Public Accounts Committee. 

The overseas press

Pope Francis has denounced abortion as a symptom of today's “throw-away culture” and encouraged Catholic doctors to refuse to perform them, stressing that “Every unborn child, condemned unjustly to be aborted, has the face of the Lord”. International Catholic news agency Zenit says the Pontiff issued the strong anti-abortion message during an audience with hundreds of obstetricians and gynaecologists in Rome for a conference. It came a day after he was quoted as blasting the church's obsession with “small-minded rules” that are driving the faithful away. He urged its pastors to focus on being merciful and welcoming rather than insisting only on such divisive, hot-button issues as abortion, gay marriage and contraception.

Hague News quotes the international chemical weapons watchdog saying it was studying details submitted by Syria about its arsenal of poison gas and nerve agents. A spokesman for the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) said it was expecting more details from Damascus ahead of deadline for submissions by the end of Saturday as part of a US-Russia brokered deal to make them safe.

A secret document published by the Guardian, reveals that the US Air Force came dramatically close to detonating an atom bomb over North Carolina that would have been 260 times more powerful than the device that devastated Hiroshima. Two Mark 39 hydrogen bombs were accidentally dropped over Goldsboro, North Carolina on January 23, 1961 after a B-52 bomber broke up in mid-air. Only a low-voltage switch prevented untold carnage. Each bomb carried a payload of 4 megatons – the equivalent of 4 million tons of TNT explosive.

According to the BBC, diplomats from a number of European countries and the UN have reacted angrily after Israeli soldiers intervened to prevent them delivering aid to Palestinians in the West Bank. The diplomats from France, Britain, Spain, Ireland, Australia and the EU's political office, were trying to deliver the equipment to Palestinians in the occupied West Bank at Khirbet Al-Makhul, whose home, stables and a kindergarten were flattened by the army this week after Israel's high court ruled that they did not have proper building permits. French diplomat Marion Castaing said she was forced to the ground from her vehicle. An Israeli foreign ministry spokesman said a formal complaint might be filed with the French over the diplomat's involvement.

Moscow Times reports Russian authorities are threatening to bring criminal charges against Greenpeace activists over piracy for scaling an oil platform in the Arctic. Special forces officers armed with guns stormed Greenpeace's ship, the Arctic Sunrise, after the protest and locked up the activists. The ship is being towed back to the port of Murmansk under armed guard. The regional unit of Russia's Investigative Committee said it was considering bringing charges of piracy, which can carry a sentence of up to 15 years in jail.

Britain’s spy services were behind a sophisticated cyber-espionage scheme targeting Belgium’s main phone operator. Germany’s Der Spiegel reported today that classified documents obtained from NSA leaker Edward Snowden indicate the GCHQ signals intelligence agency was behind the spying attack on Belgacom’s IT system that Belgium revealed last week and which apparently stretched over the past few years. The firm also serves European Union institutions based in Belgium. GCHQ declined to comment.

Thirteen people including a three-year-old child were injured when a gunman opened fire in a Chicago park. Police said the child and two other victims are in a critical condition. Authorities told the Chicago Sun-Times no-one had been taken into custody in connection with the shooting.

NDTV network quotes an Indian father who killed his daughter and beheaded her boyfriend after they eloped declaring he felt no remorse over the “honour killings”. The young couple from India's northern state of Haryana were beaten to death by the father and other relatives of the 20-year-old woman “to protect the family and village honour”. The attackers beheaded the 22-year-old man after killing him using sticks and also tried to burn the woman's body but were stopped by police.

El Universal says Mexico City authorities have arrested a police officer and another man in connection with the abduction and killing of 12 young people, who were taken in May from a bar in broad daylight. Attorney General Rodolfo Rios says the two suspects helped kidnap the group, whose decomposing bodies were found last month buried in a ranch near the capital. Prosecutors have said they believe the killings were in revenge for the murder of a drug dealer in the trendy Condesa neighbourhood.

Virgina Globe reports the equivalent of almost €100,000 has been donated to a homeless man who handed in a backpack stuffed with over €31,000 to police in Boston last week. It was later returned to its owner. Glen James’ act of kindness inspired a Virginia native Ethan Whittington to set up an online fund to help “change his life”. He looks set to have enough to buy his own home with the fund target being raised to the equivalent of €184,000 – an unimaginable dream just a week ago.

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