The following are the top stories in the national and international press today.
Times of Malta says businesses with ties to Libya have suffered a severe blow after the self-declared Tripoli government said it would not recognise official visas. In another story, it says €1.9 billion in undeclared assets have been regularised through various schemes offered by the government since 2002.
In-Nazzjon makes a formal invitation to the Home Affairs Minister to immediately publish two inquiries ordered a year-and-a-half ago. They relate to Darryl Luke Borg and a person who attacked a police officer at the Zabbar station.
The Malta Independent says Police Commissioner Michael Cassar has forwarded a police brutality claim to the duty magistrate for investigation. In another story, it says contrasting views have been expressed by MPs and a member of Alternattiva Demokratika on proposals to increase salaries for politicians and a full time Parliament
L-Orizzont said that the ‘snow’ over Malta in the last days of the year was not actually snow but graupel.
Itar Tass quotes UN spokesperson Stephane Durjarric saying the UN was seeking to resume a conciliatory dialogue in Libya and was discussing a safe place for holding the talks. The first conciliatory meeting with the participation of Libyan parliamentarians, Islamists and tribes was held under the control of the UN Support Mission last September. International concern continues to mount as Libyan Air Force jets bombed a Greek-operated oil tanker, killing two crew members. Libyan officials apologised for the bombing while the Greek foreign ministry demanded compensation for the victims’ families and punishment for those behind the attack.
Deutsche Welle says supporters and opponents of the Patriotic Europeans, a group campaigning against what it sees as the “Islamisation” of Western Europe, have held rival rallies across Germany. A record 18,000 people turned out on Monday at one rally in Dresden. But counter demonstrations have sprung up and the group has been condemned by senior German politicians, including Chancellor Angela Merkel. Thousands of people marched in Berlin, Cologne, Dresden and Stuttgart.
Börzen Zeiung reports that concern over Greece’s possible exit from the eurozone has sent jitters through international stock markets. The Athens Stock Exchange lost more than four per cent while Milan and Madrid lost 1.5 per cent and London, Frankfurt and Paris over 0.5 per cent. The euro traded at its lowest rate in five-and-a-half years at $1.1880, clearly under the $1.19 threshold. The European single currency hit a two-month low also against the yen, at 142.86.
Iceland is expected to withdraw its application to become a member of the European Union. The Reykjavik Grapevine quoted Prime Minister Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson saying participating in EU talks was “not valid anymore” after the change of government. According to Morgunbladid newspaper, the Prime Minister was likely to present a new parliamentary resolution to revoke the membership application as early as today.
French President François Hollande has discussed the options for lifting sanctions on Russia, ruled out unilateral military action in Libya and addressed Greece’s looming snap election in a wide-ranging interview on France Inter Radio. The two-hour interview was aimed at championing a string of economic reforms and reversing Hollande’s record-low approval ratings.
Jakarta Post reports Indonesian officials have said a naval patrol vessel may have found what could be the section of a crashed AirAsia passenger jet where the crucial black box voice and flight data recorders are located. The possible discovery occurred the same day Indonesia suspended several aviation officials following the revelation that the aircraft did not have the proper permits to fly the day it went down in a storm over the Java Sea. More than 80 deep sea divers have been deployed to search for the plane as four more bodies were found.
al bawaba says Kurdish fighters, backed by three US-led airstrikes, have captured a vital zone in the Syrian border town of Kobani after fierce clashes against Islamic State militants. A monitoring group said the Kurds now control 80 percent of the strategic border town of Ayn al-Arab. Meanwhile, an Islamic State suicide bomber killed three Saudi border guards at the frontier with Iraq in reprisal for Riyadh taking part in the US-led coalition.
The Montreal Gazette says extreme cold has gripped Canada and northern parts of the United States, prompting calls for residents to stay indoors amid increased risks of frostbite and hypothermia. Freezing rain on top of snow over the weekend draped most of eastern Canada under a sheet of ice, making driving impossible. Minor accidents were reported all over. Hundreds of thousands in Quebec province were without electricity.
Times of India reports Indian Christians have urged the government to ban a programme of mass “reconversion” to Hinduism launched by a Hindu ultra-right organisation and threatened mass demonstrations. The Christian minority, making up 2.3 per cent of the population, continues to feel under attack. At times, that has been physical.
Fox News says police in California have found the body of a three-week-old baby, abducted after a shooting on Saturday. Eliza Delacruz’s body was found in a rubbish bin in San Diego, more than 100 miles away from the Long Beach home she was taken from. She disappeared after the baby’s mother, father and an uncle were injured in a shooting.
Tributes flowed while fans and family grieved after the news that one of Italy’s best-loved singer-songwriters Pino Daniele was dead at age 59. Ansa reports that the mayor of Daniele’s hometown of Naples lowered flags there to half-mast and declared a day of mourning tomorrow when the funeral would be held in Rome. President Napolitano praised the musician, whose music was infused with the rhythms and the dialect of his native city.
The adoptive father of three lion cubs at Varna Zoo in Bulgaria has named them Putin, Obama and Merkel. Rosen Markov made the revelation on Radio Focus as he received the agreement which contains his obligations throughout the year. He said the small animals would symbolise the gathering at one place of the three leaders and convey the message to them that they should preserve peace and make the world happy and prosperous.