Times of Malta

Surplus registered in government finance
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Government’s Consolidated Fund registered a surplus of €4.3 million between January and October this year. Compared to the same period last year, recurrent revenue registered an increase of €374.9 million whereas total expenditure went up by €265.8 million. This resulted in a positive change in the government’s consolidated fund of €109.2 million. In January-October, recurrent revenue was recorded at €3,282.1 million, up from €2,907.2 million last year. The comparative increase of 12.9 per cent was primarily the result of higher Value Added Tax and Income Tax which both increased by €100.6 million. Compared to January-October last year, total expenditure stood at €3,277.8 million up from €3,012 million due to added outlays on recurrent expenditure and capital expenditure which outweighed lower spending on interest payments. Recurrent expenditure stood at €2,859.1 million from €2,594.5 million last year. The main contributors to this increase were Programmes and Initiatives and Personal Emoluments with a rise of €200.7 million and €30.5 million respectively. The interest component of the public debt servicing costs stood at €181.7 million, down from €187 million last...

Modest physical activity for elderly ‘beneficial to heart health’

Even modest levels of exercise can help stave off heart attacks and strokes among the elderly, new research suggests. Elderly people who are moderately inactive have a 14 per cent reduced risk of cardiovascular events, including heart attacks and strokes, compared to those who were completely inactive, the study found. Research published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology tracked more than 24,000 adults from Norfolk for around two decades. Participants were recruited between 1993 and 1997 from GP practices in Norfolk. Their physical activity levels were assessed and they were subsequently classed as active, moderately active, moderately inactive and inactive. During a median follow-up period of 18 years there were 5,240 cardiovascular disease events, such as coronary heart disease, symptoms of which include angina, heart attacks and heart failure, and stroke. The research team found that any physical activity among the over 65s was better than none at all for reducing a person’s cardiovascular risk. “We know that regular physical activity has major health benefits,” said lead author Sangeeta Lachman from the Academic Medical Centre in Amsterdam. “Elderly people...

Solution to threats to freedom of speech by foreign firms may lie in Constitution
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The Constitution may be the solution to threats to freedom of speech by foreign firms, lawyer and university lecturer Antonio Ghio told a conference about media and security this morning. Addressing a conference organised by MEP Roberta Metsola, Dr Ghio referred to letters by foreign law firms that recently tried to shut up media houses from reporting what they believe the public should know. Earlier this month, Times of Malta editors said they amended some online content after acting on legal advice on “a serious threat to freedom of the press and to the very existence of our organisation.” Dr Ghio said these were known as Strategic Lawsuits against Public Participation, and sadly some media houses looked at the expensive letterheads and bowed their heads. This was a threat to freedom of speech, and a solution could lie in the Constitution, he said. The Maltese Constitution did not recognise the death penalty and if a foreign jurisdiction requested the extradition of an individual to a country where this was recognised, the individual would be protected. "We should actively consider a situation where our constitution also recognised that freedom of speech applied both...

Emerging markets- an opportunity or a threat?
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Emerging markets (EM) have over the years offered very generous returns to investors, despite the fact that the sensitivity to both commodities and the movement in the dollar currency have always been seen as a threat to the said regions. I recall very clearly the sensitivity felt by investors in June 2013, when markets priced-in signals of tapering by the US Federal Reserve. That month, emerging market bonds were hammered by 10 percentage points. At the time, market participants described the uncontrollable outflows as a market segment which was bleeding blood in the streets. Following that correction, EM bonds rallied the way over to lock remarkable annualised returns. There is much to say why EM countries do offer an opportunity to investors. Few may be aware, but in reality selective EM countries are much better positioned than developed economies from a fundamental perspective. Looking at the debt-to-GDP ratio, on average in the Euro-area, this figure currently stands on the highs of 89.2%, with the main countries contributing to these levels being Greece, Italy and Portugal, which currently have debt-to-GDP levels of 179, 132.6 and 130.4% respectively. On the contrary,...

Bonsai exhibition
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An exhibition and talk on bonsai will be held today at 7pm at Birkirkara local council (behind St Helen’s parish church). The talk will be delivered by Karmenu Busuttil, co-founder of the Bonsai Culture Group. Entrance is free. For more information, call 7949 7495.

Those fruit and nuts may not be so healthy
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  Two lots of Emy’s raw unshelled pistachios are being recalled due to the possibility of a high level of aflatoxins, the health authorities said. Aflatoxins are poisonous carcinogens that are produced by certain moulds which grow in soil, decaying vegetation, hay, and grains. The affected lots are 7406 and 7682, durability dates January 1, 2019 and March 31, 2019, respectively. Also being recalled are Golden Lily Goji Berries, originating from China due to the possible presence of pesticides not in compliance with regulations. Their lot number is LRN02ZS and their expiry date is December 30.

Unsworth demands 100 per cent effort after drubbing
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Everton caretaker manager David Unsworth has demanded his under-performing players prove their commitment to the cause after the club's heaviest European defeat at Goodison Park. The 5-1 Europa League loss to Atalanta, the heaviest home defeat by an English side in the various guises of this competition since Nottingham Forest lost by the same scoreline to Bayern Munich in 1996, was a new low in a season which is spiralling downwards fast. A month after sacking Ronald Koeman the club are seemingly no nearer finding a replacement and the void created appears to be affecting matters on the pitch even more than the former manager's muddled tactics. Unsworth has struggled to find a successful formula and his decision to make nine changes against the Serie A side made little difference as players who had been crying out for a chance put in an abject display in front of 17,431 fans, Everton's second-lowest European crowd in their history. "I'd like to think every single player is hurting the way I am at the moment and if they are not then they shouldn't be here at this great club," said Unsworth, who has now lost four and won just one of his six games in temporary charge, conceding...

Small firms do not see the value in training their workers, study finds
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If you work for a small-sized firm with fewer than 49 employees, the chances are that you will not receive vocational training throughout the year, a new study published by the National Statistics Office suggests.  The study found that roughly two out of every three local companies offered staff continuous vocational training in 2016. Of those that did not, many were small-sized enterprises, with nearly two-thirds of all small firms skipping CVT courses.  Of the 739 companies which did not provide CVT, 76.5 per cent said that they did not see the need to, with workers already having all the skills and training needed to carry out their jobs.  While the majority of local companies offer some form of CVT, not all workers are benefiting. The NSO study found that 38,998 workers, or roughly one in every three, underwent at least one CVT course in 2016.  Read: Maltese students far behind in vocational training The study found that companies offering CVT dedicated just shy of one per cent of paid working time to employees receiving training, and spent an average of €636 per participant on courses. When indirect costs are factored in, that figure rises to €1,158 per participant.  In...

PM sticks by MFSA chairman Joe Bannister
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Prime Minister Joseph Muscat has defended MFSA chairman Joe Bannister in Parliament, despite his being involved as a non-executive director in a company based in the British Virgin Islands (BVI). Answering questions by former Opposition leader Simon Busuttil about the matter, Dr Muscat retorted that Prof. Bannister had headed the MFSA for 18 years, under various Nationalist governments. Documents in the Paradise Papers show the BVI company linked to Prof. Bannister invested in a Russian mining venture suspected of siphoning off public funds. An investigation spearheaded by Norwegian news outlet Aftenposten found out that one of the owners and directors of the Russian mining company, Alexander Glushovskoy, was wanted internationally for fraud. According to the Paradise Papers, in 2008, the EBRD, owned and funded by over 60 countries including Malta, invested $21 million in the Russian mining venture. Dr Muscat said Prof. Bannister had “spoken” to former prime ministers Eddie Fenech Adami and Lawrence Gonzi, and nothing emerged which would have im-pacted his role in the MFSA. Prof. Bannister had publicly explained his position, the Prime Minister added. The MFSA chairman’s...

ŻiguŻajg festival
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The ŻiguŻajg international festival for children and young people continues this week and comes to an end on Sunday. It features over 150 performances and workshops at various venues by critically acclaimed international and national companies. Details are available at www.ziguzajg.org. Tickets may be purchased online or from St James Cavalier’s box office (tel. 2122 3200). The following are a few highlights of the programme. One Morning I Left The show features a trip to nature, through imagination. It’s a journey of colours, sounds, landscapes and animals, in which boys and girls are invited to discover, feel and enjoy the experience. In this trip, a girl named Ana discovers what inhabits nature: the sun, the flowers, butterflies and several places. We see Ana milking a cow in the countryside, flying on a big bird over the desert, diving among bubbles and exploring the jungle. Objects like cloths, buckets, funnels and ropes come magically to life to support this journey. Music, sounds and live songs serve as the text of the play. This mix of live music and vivid imagination makes for an intimate and captivating show. Performances: Today at 5pm and tomorrow at 10am and 5pm at...

Malta Independent

ALPA and Air Malta talks at standstill with December deadline looming
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With the December deadline looming, talks over the new collective agreements between Air Malta and the Airline Pilots’ Association (ALPA) are still ongoing,  a spokesman from Air Malta has told The Malta Independent.The spokesman also declined to comment concerning the removal of Captain Bruce Pace from the role of Chief Pilot, a position he was appointed to the role during the elections earlier this year. The company insisted that it does not discuss internal affairs.Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi has long said that the collective agreements would need to be signed by the start of 2018, and warned that the company may face insolvency should these agreements not be reached.Speaking at a media briefing concerning the collective agreements on 20 September, Mizzi said that employees will be provided with a total 19% wage increase that would be spread over five years (5%, 1.5%, 5%, 1.5%, 5%).The rise would see Air Malta's payroll costs would be €16 million, and in order to fund it, revenue would need to increase by €100 million.Pilots and cabin crew in particular would be subject to working increased and more flexible hours.Cabin Crew, for example, would see a reduction from five to four staff on every flight; while pilots would be expected to fly for 12hr shifts rather than 10.Air Malta Chairman Charles Mangion and Mizzi have both spoken of a drive to engage individual pilots to go to Air Malta’s offices to see how their remuneration will be improved over the coming years.The stumbling block appears to be over the union’s belief that the proposed wage package does not reflect the change in conditions, and was a pay-cut even though it appeared to offer an increase. “Would you think it was pay-rise if you worked for 10 hours for €100, and then you’re asked to work for 12 hrs for €100 and one cent?”So far, only a hiving agreement with the GWU has been reached, which saw ground handling operations moved to a separate company wholly owned by the government. The sections affected are the Ground Handling Service Operations Section, the Ground Equipment Maintenance Section, and the Cargo Operations section. The new company will provide services to Air Malta and other airlines.

Parole board member failed to attend single meeting in two years
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One of the members of the parole board failed to attend a single meeting over the last two years, according to data tabled in Parliament. The parole board met 16 times in 2015 and 11 times in 2016, but board member Alex Sciberras had a 0% attendance rate in both years. Alex Sciberras is the son of retired judge Philip Sciberras. The former Msida mayor is also a director on the Air Malta board.The information comes from the reports of the parole board, which were tabled in Parliament by Home Affairs Minister Michael Farrugia at the request of PN MP Carm Mifsud Bonnici. Responding to questions sent by this newsroom, Sciberras confirmed that he has not been in attendance to the parole board. “I have in fact requested removal as a member of the board, which may have not been actioned formally. It is my understanding that my non-attendance has not impaired the functioning of the board.” The reason for his non-attendance was “principally due to time constraints.” He did not remember the exact date he requested his own removal, but said it was towards the end of 2014, beginning 2015. Regarding pay, he said “remuneration was of €3,000 annually as standard pay for government boards, however I received part thereof proportionate to the time I served as I did not serve a full year. From beginning 2015 onwards I was never remunerated, possibly even from before that.” The board is headed by judge emeritus Franco Depasquale. Its members are: Kevin Sammut, Anna Vella, Charles Cassar, Miriam Sevasta, Philip Galea Farrugia, Anna Grech, Joseph St John, Alex Sciberras. Kevin Borg is board secretary.The board was appointed by the Prime Minister in August 2013 for a period of five years. The tabled reports show that the board met seven times in 2013 and all members had a 100% attendance rate. 16 meetings were held the following year. Members Alex Sciberras and Anna Grech had an attendance rate of 19%. The following year there were 16 meetings of the board. Sciberras is listed as having had zero attendance. The member with the second lowest attendance was Joseph St John, with 19%.Eleven meetings were held in 2016, with Sciberras is again listed as having failing to attend a single meeting. Joseph St John attended 9% of meetings.  Police Commissioner Lawrence Cutajar, who is not mentioned in the reports for the previous years, attended 9% of meetings. The board meets at the Corradino prison. Government board members are usually paid according to attendance. In the meantime the data also shows how many parole licences were granted by the board. In 2013 the board discussed fourteen cases, issued four licences and rejected 10 cases. In 2014 it discussed 78 cases, approved 22 (28%) and rejected 56 (72%). Among those granted parole, an inmate refused to be released on parole. The following year the board discussed 79 cases, granted parole in 24 cases (30%) and rejected 55 (70%). One parolee had his license revoked. In 2016 the board discussed 71 cases, granted parole to 23 of inmates (32%) and denied parole to 48 (68%). Three parolees had their license revoked.

One in four women experience abuse by partner, law on domestic violence by end of year
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One in every four women experience emotional, sexual or physical abuse by current or former partner, studies show.Clarissa Sammut Scerri, the dean of the faculty of family studies has this morning presented the findings of studies which show the extent of violence against women in Malta and in the rest of the globe. She was addressing a conference on violence against women at the Radisson Blu Hotel. The conference officially launched a 16-day awareness and activism campaign which will focus on the various issues related to gender violence, including children and domestic abuse.Sammut Scerri said that the importance of such studies is to look at the family context to better understand how such situations develop.She quoted results from an FRA survey which shows how by 2014, 15% of women experience sexual, physical or violent abuse. This amounts to 31,800 women. More than 26% of women experience emotional or violent abuse from former or current partners. More than 23% of women experience such abuse before they turn 15 years of age.Law on domestic violence to pass by end of yearThe Minister for Civil Liberties and EU Affairs Helena Dalli opened this same conference and announced that the Maltese parliament will pass the law on domestic violence by end of this year. She said that currently, the House of Representatives is going through its second reading. Once approved, the law will be in line with the Istanbul convention on domestic violence.Minister Dalli said that there needs to be proper ownership of the government's strategy against gender violence. She said this is the reason why the strategy was implemented in an intra-ministry approach. Dalli said all the cabinet was involved."A country can only make the leap forward if we need to put our foot down and have zero-acceptance towards violence."She mentioned Hollywood's Harvey Weinstein's multiple sexual abuse cases and how this shows the extent to which such abuse can grow. Dalli then spoke about how childhood experiences can leave a life-long mark on the victim. "You reap what you sow," she added. "If we want gender violence to stop, we need to act with the very young."The strategy on gender violence will be officially launched tomorrow. 

TMID Editorial: Civil liberties - Will the PN ever get it right?
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The Nationalist Party, it seems, can never get it right with the LGBTI community.Wednesday’s debate was the latest example of this. PN Leader Adrian Delia and other MPs tried hard, and failed to convince that the PN motion was about technical, not moral issues.In simple terms, the issue was a Legal Notice, introduced last summer, which gives couples of all sexual orientations leave entitlement for IVF treatment.The PN raised a ruckus because the definition of procreating parents used in the Legal Notice was different to the wording used in the 2012 IVF law, which was exclusively for heterosexual couples.The Opposition was technically correct in saying that different definitions of the same thing in two different laws might lead to lengthy legal complications in the future.But for the past weeks, instead of fighting for a change in the IVF law itself, to bring it in line with the new terminology used in the Legal Notice, the PN argued that it was the Legal Notice that had to be scrapped, even if this meant denying prospective IVF parents the right to 100 hours of leave.It was only on this week that the PN changed its stance slightly and began speaking about changing the 2012 law.The government made it clear that the discriminatory 2012 IVF law will be amended to comply with the ‘new’ definition of procreating parents, meaning that all this hullaballoo was for nothing.The PN gained nothing from it. It only made more enemies and opened the party up to accusations of discrimination.PD MP Godfrey Farrugia declared that he was voting against the motion because he did not agree with putting people into boxes.  And that is exactly what the PN’s attitude looks like, despite all the sugar coating.During the debate, Delia pointed out that the Opposition was not saying it agreed or disagreed with the definition. This means that, despite the fact that this motion has been in the pipeline for weeks, and despite the fact that the real issue here was whether to give IVF leave to LGBTI couples (alongside same-sex couples) the PN still does not have an opinion on the matter.On issues of civil liberties, the PN is always late to the party, and when it finally gets there, it messes everything up.The party had started making inroads with the LGBTI community when it supported same-sex marriage in the summer, but it looks like it has now backtracked.Above all, Wednesday’s vote laid bare the rift that is essentially splitting the PN in half.Six MPs, including former PN leader Simon Busuttil, refused to toe the party line on an issue they considered to be one of conscience. Rather than go all the way and vote with the government – because they knew how the Labour Party would use that to its advantage – they abstained.On top of that, they issued a statement confirming the fact that they had asked for a free vote, but Adrian Delia, who repeatedly pledged to give a free vote on matters of conscience during his leadership campaign, refused their request.One has to say that it was a bit rich of Busuttil to ask for a free vote on a matter of conscience when, four months ago he refused to give a free vote on same-sex marriage. But Busuttil is no longer leader of the party – Delia is.And while the latter is tightening his grip on the PN’s internal structures and committees, it seems that his Parliamentary Group is floating farther away.The PN needs to get its act together, and fast. 

€4.3 million surplus in government finances registered in first ten months
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A surplus of €4.3 million in government finances was registered in the period January to October, the National Statistics Office said today. Compared to the same period last year, recurrent revenue registered an increase of €374.9 million whereas total expenditure went up by €265.8 million. This resulted in a positive change in the Government’s Consolidated Fund by €109.2 million.In January-October 2017, recurrent revenue was recorded at €3,282.1 million, up from €2,907.2 million last year. The comparative increase of 12.9 per cent was primarily the result of higher Value Added Tax and Income Tax which both increased by €100.6 million. Moreover, increases were also recorded for Social Security (€56.8 million), Fees of Offi ce (€32.5 million), Customs and Excise Duties (€29.8 million), Grants (€21.6 million), Reimbursements (€19.8million), Licences, Taxes and Fines (€17.8million) and Dividends on Investment (€6.7 million). Conversely, decreases were mainly recorded in Miscellaneous Receipts (€8.5 million) and Rents (€2.7 million).Compared to January-October last year, total expenditure stood at €3,277.8 million up from €3,012.0 million due to added outlays on recurrent expenditure and capital expenditure which outweighed lower spending on interest payments.Recurrent expenditure stood at €2,859.1 million from €2,594.5 million last year. The main contributors to this increase were Programmes and Initiatives and Personal Emoluments with a rise of €200.7 million and €30.5 million respectively. The main developments in the Programmes and Initiatives category involved added outlays due to Health Concession Agreements (€27.8million), social security benefi ts (€27.3 million), higher EU Own Resources (€21.4 million), state contribution (€17.8 million which also features as revenue), EU Presidency 2017 (€15.4 million), Jobsplus Programmes (€10.8 million), Contingency Reserve (€9.8 million), Medicines and Surgical materials (€9.2 million), Treasury Pensions (€6.0 million), Electoral Commission activities (€5.7 million), child care for all (€3.6 million), public social partnership (€2.7 million), allocation to local councils (€2.1 million), solid waste management (€2.0 million), church schools (€2.0 million) and public service obligations (€1.9 million). Contributions to Government Entities and Operational and Maintenance Expenses increased by €24.8 million and €8.5 million respectively.The interest component of the public debt servicing costs stood at €181.7 million, down from €187.0 million last year.Government’s capital expenditure witnessed an increase of €6.6 million, and was recorded at €237.0 million. This was mainly the result of higher spending on investment incentives (€10.1 million), tomorrow schools (€6.0 million) and construction works and equipment (€3.8 million). On the other hand lower outlays related to acquisition of property for public services (€7.7 million) and fi lm industry incentives (€6.0 million) were recorded.At the end of October 2017, Central Government Debt stood at €5,605.9 million, down by €73.9 million over the corresponding month last year. This was the result of lower Treasury Bills and Malta Government Stocks which decreased by €116.4 million and €28.5 million respectively.Moreover Foreign Loans decreased by €10.4 million. On the other hand, the new 62+ Malta Government Savings Bond added €99.6 million and Euro coins issued in the name of the Treasury increased by €5.9 million. Higher holdings by government funds in Malta Government Stocks resulted in a decrease in debt of €24.3 million.

Media law: ‘let’s hope legislators don’t stifle technology’s empowerment’ – IT Lawyer
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Listing the Media and Defamation Act draft presented earlier this year, the difference  between a blogger's and journalist's rights, and the need for anti- SLAMM legislation, amongst others, IT Lawyer and University of Malta lecturer Antonio Ghio articulated his concern as to whether Malta's media laws will stifle empowerment which technology brings about.Ghio was speaking at a conference this morning organized by MEP Roberta Metsola regarding the fourth estate, citizen journalism and security challenges in Malta. 'Media and Defamation Act would have put is in par with North Korea' "No right is absolute and there is always this constant balancing act between our rights to free speech, security of the state, libel, freedom of information and so on," he said."What we have realised in the past few years is that there is no new way in which our present legislator is trying to seek this balance, and the best example of this is with the media and defamation act earlier this year," he said. "We saw the first draft, which would have put us at par with media laws in Russia, China and North Korea, by basically giving power to the state to know who is participating in this online discussion.""This unfortunate state of affairs reflects our society and surely reflects the inability of our electoral representatives to understand this technology and this revolution."He went on to say that the new draft published this week removes website registration and brings Malta closer to the UK model. "It does not mean the UK model is free and perfect," he said, adding that "the timing of this discussion is sad, after what we experienced a few weeks ago." 'Constitution should protect us from SLAPP situations' Refering to the recent legal action taken by Pilatus Bank in the USA on Maltese media houses, the lawyer said "it was very sad to see if some, if not all, of media houses looking at the expensive letterhead, bowing their head and saying yes."He stated that such actions are "a threat to our freedom of speech, irrespective of what some funny laws in single states in the US dictate.""Last week a request was made to the EU commission to look at the phenomenon of SLAPP on a European level, but everything, in my opinion, boils down to our digital rights and the application of these rights, even in SLAPP situations."He likened the concept to our constitution not recognising the death penalty. "I think we should concsider a situation where our constitution, as a piece of legislation can protect us, also recognises that freedom of speech applies offline and online, and also to legal persons. ""It is a difficult balancing act, and technology is changing every day," he said, "laws that apply to citizen journalists also apply to keyboard warriors. Technology is empowering us , let us hope that legislators do not stifle that empowerment." Situation 'reflects inability to recognize importance of human rights in digital context'Earlier, Ghio explained that laws are "trailing behind technology", and situations such as the Media and Defamation act "reflects our inability as a country to take the lead and recognize the importance of the application of human rights in a digital context."He mentioned the difference in rights which one has a blogger as opposed to a journalist. Speaking about Daphne Caruana Galizia, Ghio said "some people failed to recognize her journalistic capacity and only referred to her as a blogger and therefore had no rights attached to that, as opposed to being a journalist with an accredited press card from the state."He went on to explain that in 2012, the Government, which was run by the Nationalist administration, had presented a "white paper of certain digital rights.""This never saw the light of day, was never discussed or debated in parliament, and I dearly hope the the new parliament will receive a refreshed bill of this sort," he said. 

The wait is over - with a €73m EuroMillions Jackpot to be won Black Friday sales hit Jackpot.com
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After another rollover the EuroMillions jackpot is an incredible €73M and can be won from Malta. The best part is today Jackpot.com is offering 50% off EuroMillions best. Is there a better way to celebrate Black Friday than with a huge jackpot?With 13 prize tiers, your chance of winning EuroMillions is 1 in 13. Your chance of winning the big jackpot stands at 1 in 139,838,160. The jackpot rolls over until somebody wins.That's right, you don't have to go on a holiday to bet on the results or to take advantage of this historic sale. You can wager on this amazing jackpot online from anywhere in the world via Jackpot.com.All you have to do is click on this link to take advantage of this offer. You will first see the details of the promotion and then you will see your purchase and your discount in your shopping cart. Finally, you can either leave your bet as is or pick your numbers.Jackpot.com is regulated by the Malta Gaming Authority to ensure responsible betting. There is also a knowledgeable Customer Experience Team available to answer your questions so you can rest easy knowing you'll be taken care of.The draw is tonight so make this a Black Friday to remember and take advantage of this unbelievable offer. And to stay up to date on the biggest jackpots in the world, remember to like Jackpot.com on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter or Instagram. The biggest lottery news is always posted on our pages, so you'll know when a big jackpot is up for grabs. Plus, you'll have the opportunity to participate in exclusive competitions and win amazing prizes.Good luck!This is sponsored content 

Updated: Pistorius' prison sentence increased to 13 years, 5 months
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Pistorius' prison sentence increased to 13 years, 5 monthsBy GERALD IMRAY, Associated PressSOMERSET WEST, South Africa (AP) — Oscar Pistorius' prison sentence was increased to 13 years and five months by South Africa's Supreme Court of Appeal on Friday, a decision that more than doubled the Olympic runner's jail term for the murder of girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp.In an announcement that took a matter of minutes, Supreme Court Justice Willie Seriti said the Supreme Court upheld an appeal by prosecutors against Pistorius' original six-year sentence for shooting Steenkamp multiple times in his home in 2013.Prosecutors had called that six-year sentence "shockingly" lenient.Pistorius should have been sentenced to the prescribed minimum of 15 years for murder in South Africa, Seriti said, as he delivered the verdict that was reached by a panel of five judges at the Supreme Court in the central city of Bloemfontein.The new sentence of 13 years and five months took into account time Pistorius had already served in prison and at home under house arrest, Seriti said.Pistorius, who turned 31 on Wednesday, has served over a year of his initial six-year sentence.Pistorius killed Steenkamp in the pre-dawn hours of Valentine's Day 2013 after shooting four times through a closed toilet cubicle door in his home. Claiming he mistook his girlfriend for an intruder, he was initially convicted of manslaughter. That conviction was overturned and replaced with a murder conviction by the Supreme Court in 2015.Friday's decision likely brings an end to a near five-year legal saga surrounding the double-amputee athlete, a multiple Paralympic champion and record-breaker who was once one of the most celebrated sportsmen in the world.Pistorius' lawyers have just one avenue open to them if they want to challenge the new sentence handed down by the Supreme Court, and that is to appeal to the Constitutional Court, the highest court in South Africa.Pistorius failed with an appeal to the Constitutional Court last year to challenge his murder conviction.

Watch: Clyde Puli appointed Nationalist Party secretary-general
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Clyde Puli this evening was appointed the Secretary-General for the Nationalist Party. Puli together with other PN members were appointed by the PN executive committee during a meeting.Mark Anthony Sammut will serve as president of the executive committee while David Camilleri, who will replace Alex Perici Calascione, was appointed treasurer. Roselyn Borg was given the role of  international secretary instead of Trevor Degiorgio. David Stellini has been given the role of president of the administrative committee.In comments to the media the PN leader Adrian Delia said that this is the new team. Last Saturday the PN paid members elected David Agius and Robert Arrigo as the two new deputy leaders of the Nationalist Party. Earlier this month Kristy Debono was elected president of the PN general council.Last week Pierre Portelli was appointed as executive chairman of the Nationalist Party's media arm, Media.Link and Ivan Bartolo as PN director for business development.When Delia was asked by The Malta Independent whether there will be any reshuffle in the shadow cabinet, he said that this will be decided later and did not rule out this happening. Photo and Video by Michael Camilleri

MUT ‘concerned’ that University will lose its autonomy as an institution
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The Malta Union of Teachers (MUT) welcomes the wide consultation process carried out by the Ministry and is looking forward to the inclusion of these proposals in the final version of the document. The MUT also welcomes the proposed improved funding systems to sustain the operation of the institution in the long term, along with improved internal and external quality assurance mechanisms provided that they respect and do not restrict academic freedom and institutional autonomy.On the other hand, the Union notes that the establishment of a new Governing structure raises a number of issues. The fact that the function of the institution may be decided by a non-academic board might lead to the institution becoming another department within the Ministry for Education with academic priorities side-lined and with the University subdued to the Ministry's board decision. Also, academic staff may be reduced to functionaries who cannot take professional initiative, and with academic leaders just figureheads. If this happens the autonomy of the institution would be reduced drastically. The European Trade Union Committee for Education (ETUCE), for example, last month expressed its concern about efforts within Higher Education that may lead to Universities becoming reduced to preparing students only for the short-term needs of the labour market at the expense of the quality of education overall. This could be one possible outcome of such a Governing structure. The ETUCE insists, and the MUT agrees, that the mission of universities and other higher education institutions in Europe is much broader than only providing knowledge to the business sector. Democratic societies need free and independent higher education and research institutions that encourage independent and creative thinking.In a comment, the MUT President Marco Bonnici stated that "we have already commented on the deplorable revisions made to the laws governing the Institute for Education, which eliminated the institute's independence so that the Ministry can now appoint directly its own people to the board. Seen in this context, one would be justified to be concerned about what seems like a very worrying drive to centralise autonomous institutions."The MUT also notes that the Consultation Paper has a number of ad hoc stand-alone proposals on which the Union has serious doubts about whether they will lead to improved academic freedom, improved quality of service, transparency in recruitment of full-time and part-time academics, mechanisms of redress in tackling injustices in selection and appointment processes or effective appeals structures. The MUT urges the Government to study more the implications of the said proposals in order to address how these proposals would work in practice.In conclusion, the MUT notes with disappointment that there is no reference to the Junior College apart from a reference at the end of the document stating that the Junior College structure is to be retained. The new law should emphasise the role of the Junior College as a pre-tertiary institution and as an academic institution of excellence, rather than just merely as a post-secondary institution. The MUT also suggests changes in the governing structures of the College, such that its status would be considered institutionally and administratively as the equivalent of a University Faculty. This would imply that the Principal would be the equivalent of a Faculty Dean with status and membership to all bodies as all other University Faculty Deans.Following the Consultation Paper issued by the Ministry for Education and Employment in April, the MUT is issuing its initial reactions. More detailed feedback will be provided to the Ministry during meetings already in the pipeline.

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