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

The Sunday Times carries a claim by former prisoner Charles Muscat, known as il-Pips, that the authorities knew who the king of drugs at the prisons was. He said prisoners who sold drugs 10 years ago, are still doing so today. The newspaper also highlights the battle to save the eyesight of a 41-year-old man who has suffered from a rare contact lens infection.

The Malta Independent on Sunday highlights criticism of the government over the prisons by Opposition home affairs spokesman Michael Falzon.   

MaltaToday says the Prime Minister has been advised to call an election this March.

It-Torca reports that Malta Enterprise chairman Alan Camilleri has held talks with  SR Technics, who were supposed to have invested more in Malta.

Il-Mument highlights comments by the prime minister that decisions are taken on the basis of their national importance.   

Illum reports that the most worrying concerns of the Malta Hotels and Restaurants Association are the electricity sector and Air Malta.  

KullHadd says former officials of San Raffaele Hospital have been accused of criminal association by Italian police. San Raffaele were in the past due to have set up what is now Mater Dei Hospital.

The overseas press

Manila Times says rescue efforts continue in the southern Philippines after two cities were left devastated by tropical storm Washi. More than 440 people have been killed, hundreds are still missing and thousands have been left homeless. The flooding has affected more than 22,000 families; around 100,000 people are believed to have been displaced.

Jakarta Post reports rescuers in Indonesia are searching for hundreds of people feared missing after a fishing boat sank off the main island of Java. Emergency officials put the number on board the vessel at 380, of whom 76 had been rescued by local fishermen. The boat was believed to be heading for Australia carrying asylum seekers from Afghanistan, Turkey and Iran.

The Egyptian Gazette says Arab League members have increased the pressure on Syria to accept their plan to end the escalating violence between the Syrian security forces and anti-government protesters. They have urged Damascus to adopt the League’s proposals by Wednesday, when foreign ministers are due to vote on a resolution to pass the issue to the UN Security Council. The League has already suspended Syria’s membership and imposed sanctions.

Al Ahram reports Egypt's Prime Minister Kamal al-Ganzouri has described the latest protests in the capital Cairo as a "counter-revolution". His comments came as violence continued for a second day, following the deaths of eight protesters on Friday. Hundreds of Egyptian soldiers beat demonstrators to the ground with sticks and setting fire to their tens in Tahrir Square. The demonstrators, want an immediate handover to civilian rule in Egypt, threw stones.

CNN says that US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta has expressed confidence in Libya's new government on a visit to the country. He said Libya needed to unite fractious rebel groups, secure arms caches and build democratic institutions. Libyan Prime Minister Abdurrahim al-Keib said uniting the rebel factions was a serious issue, and that programmes were being designed to attract "freedom fighters" to build a better future for Libya through opportunities other than carrying arms.

La Nazione reports that thousands of anti-racist demonstrators have marched in Florence to protest against the killing of two Senegalese street traders. They were shot dead on Tuesday by a gunman linked to a far right group who later turned the gun n himself. Italian President Giorgio Napolitano denounced the attack a a blind explosion of hatred.

Times of Central Asia says a state of emergency has been declared in the western Kazakh town of Zhanaozen a day after clashes between strikers and police left at least 11 dead. Strikes and protests are banned, a night-time curfew introduced and movement restricted for 20 days. Clashes began on Friday as police tried to clear the town square, occupied by oil workers for more than six months in a dispute over better pay.

USA Today reports that the prosecution has began to outline its case against Bradley Manning, the 23-year-old American soldier accused of passing hundreds of thousands of secret files to the Wikileaks website. The hearing will decide whether Private Manning should face a court martial. He could face life imprisonment if convicted.

Variety announces the death last Wednesday of Billie Jo Spears, a singer of country songs with strong women as their protagonists, at her home in Vidor, Texas from cancer. She was 73 and was best known for her 1975 hit “Blanket on the Ground”. Recorded when Spears was 38, the single, which reached No. 1 on the Billboard country chart. Other successful records were “Mr. Walker, It’s All Over” and “Harper Valley PTA”.  Spears placed 26 singles in the country Top 40, including 5 Top Ten country hits and “On the Rebound” a duet with the singer Del Reeves, from 1968 to 1984. In 1976, eight years after her first big hit, she was voted “most promising female vocalist” by the Academy of Country Music.

Independent journalism costs money. Support Times of Malta for the price of a coffee.

Support Us