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Monday, January 31, 2005

Global warming

Our Mediated World blog is where creative New Yorker Mark Forscher 'reprocesses things he finds interesting' in current affairs, design, media, & music. In this entry he demonstrates the urgency of global warming and quotes Malta's climate change specialist as reported by London's Independent.

Top negotiators described the effort - at a special UN conference in Buenos Aires - as like hanging on to a cliff face by their "fingernails", as the United States and oil-producing countries threw rock after rock to try to dislodge them...

The Americans also objected to mentions of the need to tackle global warming as opposed to adapting to it, and backed an extraordinary demand from Saudi Arabia that oil-producing states should receive billions of dollars in compensation from the rest of the world if they burned less oil.

Eventually a single meeting that could discuss the future was agreed for next May, and other uneasy compromises were reached, preventing total breakdown. "It is a finger-hold, like hanging on by your nails," says Michael Zammit Cutajar, a veteran climate negotiator for Malta who was for 11 years executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. [link to London Independent]

Mark Forscher's portfolio

A closer look at Global Warming

Malta climate profile from World Resources Institute

Malta takes no action to reduce climate change effects - from Greenpeace Mediterranean. What substantial progress since this report?

Unhappy working vacation

Bill Fedun a self employed former military man from Ontario, Canada is in Malta for a working vacation in which he is helping to set up and repair armours for the Palace Museum armoury. Unfortunately the weather, the food and the beer have turned out to be below expectations. Unlike last year, Bill is not in a happy mood:

Oh well...we had lots of company. Lots of grumbling people at the gates of Fort St. Elmo. If any body from Malta is reading lost a LOT of money today you fools! When I was there, it was lovely, sunny and nice, though of course, the streets were flooded with over 6 inches of water at times. Its not like they make provision to drain off rain water...I think I saw the year's supply of rain this morning! There is not a lot of rain here...lots of cactus though.

Yesterday dropped into the Takali airfield. It isn't an airfield any more, of course, though it saw LOTS of action in WWII. Now the local craftspeople are trying to eke a living in the old nissan huts. Seems like an idea of the 1960's, with the tie dyed shirts and embroidered jeans, but these are just plain taudry, and well past their "sell by" dates. There is a plan to change it all...probably by putting up hotels...that seems to be the usual answer to urban renewal around here.

Bill Fedun wrote this other journal last year during a two week visit to study original armours for his business. A good read with beautiful Malta photos. (Malta Journal VIA library)

Grantly Marshall

Tonight, I will be present for an event convened by Poezijaplus in which Simone Inguanez will interview American artist Grantly Marshall – a man with a “taste for poetry as well for the dramatic”. Marshall is in Malta for the Shakespeare festival and is the author of '21 Poems for the 21st Century' (5 Volumes). Besides discussing poetry and reciting Shakespeare works, Marshall will also read some of his own poems. Vince Fabri and Walter Micallef will be providing the music. Everyone is welcome to join us at the Cafe Diva, The Manoel Theatre, Valletta 7.30 pm. I hope to see some of you there!

Best Creative Poetry - Grantly Marshall

Promoting the Bard - Lino Bugeja about 'Spotlight on Shakespeare'

Malta family crest

For those whose family name is Malta, Maltese, Maltesi etc...The Malta family crest pictured here:

First found in Sicilia or Sicily an island in the Mediterranean, a part of Italy. The original inhabitants were Sicels. Research shows that records of the Malta family date back to the noble Maltese family in Sicily, where Remigio Maltese was a castleowner in Lentini and Paolino Maltese obtained the castle of Stafenda in 1230. The Greeks colonized in 735 B.C. Phoenician settlements began in 6th century. Carthaginians arrived 410. Romans arrived, then the Saracens. Then the Norman Conquest said to be Sicily's brightest hour, 1057 A.D and taking 35 years.

Some of the first settlers of this name or some of its variants were: Elis Malta, who is recorded as settling in America in 1848; Cologero Malta, his wife Costanza and their two children, who were recorded in Louisiana between the years 1901-1910.

House of Names -Malta coat of arms products

Sunday, January 30, 2005

Blogs and politicians

The Live from Brussels weblog contemplates the use of blogs by politicians:

Luc Van Braekel launches a discussion on his weblog: should government ministers in Belgium blog and RSS more (Ministers moeten meer bloggen en RSS'en). The debate seems to have taken a turn in the direction of: they shouldn't be blogging, they should be governing the country more properly. While I certainly think it would be interesting if these people blogged, I think members of parliament, or aspiring politicians that haven't been elected yet, can get more use out of blogging. After all, it is the task of the legislative branch to debate and represent the people, two things weblogs can help them with. The executive branch however can also benefit of blogging, because it makes it possible to comunicate quicker and more efficiently than via the 'normal' channels. Anyway, if the subject interests you, head to Paris, where my boss is organising an event about blogs and politics next month...

MP's and blogging - a new way to communicate? - from Hansard

Bloggers take on politicians - from the BBC

Blogging European Commissioner

Why politicians should have blogs? (pdf file)

Barbara Bode's trip through history

US based travel writer Kim Davies blogs about Barbara Bode who joined AWAI in Paris and writes a regular column for In Touch, an upscale membership magazine for women. Kim describes her as a recent transplant from Washington to Malta. In fact Barbara now lives in Gozo and she wrote this article published last spring for Transitions Abroad:

Malta is a magical time machine where you are enveloped by history. For curious and adventuresome independent travelers, the island is a perfect off-season destination: affordable, infinitely interesting, safe, friendly, English-speaking….I spent a month there in January 2003 and was so entranced that I decided to move there.

More than a Mediterranean resort, Malta is a place of burial vaults built before the Pyramids, temples that pre-date Stonehenge, and caves from the Punic Wars. A dozen UNESCO Heritage sites dot the islands. You can see catacombs and viaducts erected by the Romans, villages established by Arabs, and the historic evidence from victorious battles against the Turks in 1565 and against the Axis powers in 1940. And then enjoy evenings out at the theater, opera, dinner, and the casino.

Malta Off Season - Take a Trip Through History by Barbara Bode

American Writers & Artists Institute and International Living (AWAI)

Travel writing from

Online gaming in Europe

Legal Memo on Online Gaming in Europe, prospects for 2005 via the European Commission:

Eventually, one may not forget that it is very likely that regulatory models adopted by the United Kingdom, Malta and Slovakia will lead to serious Internal Market distortions, underlying the need of a European initiative in the field of remote gaming and associated services. At the occasion of the first report on the application of the Directive on electroninc commerce, the European Commission acknowledged that "Online gambling is a new area in which action may be required because of significant Internal Market problems and that it would examine the need for a possible new EU initiative."

2004 Online gaming Regulations - Malta

A day in the life of a Maltese teacher

A renegade rebel who writes poetry, plays the piano and is enthusiastic about photography. She leads a complicated life, mistrusts those around her and hopes to save enough money to buy a new Mazda. Equipped with a degree in Information Technology, Maria is currently teaching uncouth young boys in a state school until she finds the ideal job as a software developer. She recorded a diary for a day at school:

09:38 Eeeeeeeekkkk! Break in middle of corridor. Was stopped by a colleague from the other classroom. "Do you have key of room 11?" Oh shit. I had forgotten to hand the key in and the lecturer had spent a whole 8 minutes going around corridors and staffrooms looking for me in order to be able to start her class. Grrrrr! Apologizing profusely (actually just twice) I stormed off for my staffroom.

09:40 Bleh.. Switch on PC, check mail, reply to yet another couple questions about assignment which was to be handed in today.. Start having lunch while checking Google News. Yet more detail about the Tsunami disaster, more gadgets built, more criticism on politics, more speculation about M. Jackson.. The world lives on.

10:32 Oops! I have another lecture now right? Right. Hah. With the Tarzans. Let's hope they stay quiet today.

11:17 "Jekk m'inthomx se taghlqulu se nitfaghkom il-barra il-hamsa l-intkom!! Michael, aghlaq minn hemm" "Din ohti miss" "Michael ghidtlek ghalaq jew tmur barra, iddeciedi" "Ok miss".. Trust the boys to search online on anything (actually on one hottt topic in particular) BUT what they were requested to do. Men!

Alexis Callus has resigned

Alexis Callus has just quit as deputy mayor of Safi. With a letter faxed from the headquarters of the Nationalist Party (PN) he announced his departure from the local council in which he represented the Governing party. Although a number of stories emerged this week about his racist activism which included running an extremist website, he continued to enjoy the official backing of the PN. If the PN is serious about it's European credentials, it should now ensure that Callus and his followers are not permitted to remain active within the party.

MLP national protest tomorrow at 2pm Freedom Square Valletta

Saturday, January 29, 2005

Family before country?

PrimeMinister Laurence Gonzi's decision to allow his nephew Alexis Callus to represent the Nationalist Party (PN) in local government should not be allowed to discredit this country in Europe. Callus, a racist activist who promotes the activities of extremist Norman Lowell, has the full support of the PN to stay on as a deputy mayor in Malta's south east. If the PrimeMinister sustains his loyalty to his nephew, he could be leading his already unpopular administration into a road that could secure it as the most unpopular and untrendy Maltese Government since the early eighties. This blog aside, the opposition's secretary general Jason Micallef and the pro-Labour media have been the most vocal in condemning racism while calling for the resignation of Callus. Not much from other circles apart from the PN's official defence of Callus. Finally the silence is broken by prominent journalist and former PN media chief Lou Bondi who wrote this piece for today's Times:

Alexis Callus, a 24-year-old Nationalist Party local councillor and deputy mayor of Safi, should resign his post in the council as well as from the party. Enough facts about his beliefs and activities have emerged to prove that he flirts heavily with racist ideas and subscribes to an extreme-right wing political philosophy. It is quite clear that this young man is not politically mature enough to realise the danger of the ideas he has been playing around with...

Mr Callus is not just an extreme right-winger. He also embraces other views which are as colourful as they are despicable. NGOs who help refugees and illegal aliens in detention, for instance, are called "the new mafia". Archbishop Michael Gonzi, in this PN councillor's view, was right to deny Labourites a decent burial three decades ago. And he opines that this government looks positively at such a view. Politically, this man lives in his own world.

What has the PN done about all this? Joe Saliba, the PN secretary general, said that Mr Callus admitted his mistake and was "forgiven". This is not good enough. It would have been acceptable had Mr Callus committed one foolish mistake. The facts, however, show that he adheres to beliefs that are clearly at odds with those of the Nationalist Party. For a party to forgive someone who commits a genuine mistake and be prepared to take the flak is a magnanimous act. To accept that the PN is represented in Safi by an extreme right-winger with racist views is not.

Racism, xenophobia and neo-fascist beliefs cannot be treated lightly, particularly at present. The Nationalist Party, a Christian democratic party in government of an EU member, cannot have a man who embraces them speak in its name. Mr Callus, a deeply misguided young man, is free to join a party which shares his views. But that party cannot be the PN.

Alexis Callus - a PN policy maker by VictorVella

Plastic surgery in Cape Town

A Maltese 77 year old woman has just been transformed by a plastic surgeon in Cape Town. From Mediscapes blog:

Let's call her Marrion and she was from Malta- that sun splashed rock in the Mediterranean. Ibiza it's not. God's warm English Waiting Room- it is- and when they all die, Marrion tells me they can't get cremated (For Malta's Catholic) so they get buried at sea. At least that's warm too. A hot tub for eternity I would imagine. Try that in Cape Town. You can't even dip a toe in the ocean, and we have two oceans. The iceman cometh even on the hottest days of summer. You shower on the beach. Swimming is for the brave. Or the desperate. And By the way it's not summer here. It's just that winter never arrived and it's nearly Spring. Lucky, Lucky for our clients. No umbrellas needed. Pass the Sunblock.

Beautiful Marrion had a full facelift and an upper and lower Blepharoplasty which shaved at least a decade and a bit from her previous facelift. Her surgeon at the last moment of the consult wanted to do a bit of laser around the mouth and chin to try and undo the smoking wrinklies and crevasses- areas the facelift doesn't touch. But I managed to convince her that Surgeons aren't make-up artists and she would never find a matching base for the laser area. Did she want to look like a chipmunk and did she want to have to spend 6 weeks indoors allowing the area to heal? Surely not in sunny Malta?

Sojourn in Sicily

The histories of Malta and Sicily are intertwined. For millennia Malta and Sicily served as land bridges for migrations of people from the east to the west Mediterrean. Prehistoric populations settled here and the Phoenicians and Greeks established major trading centers on both islands. Under the Roman Empire both Sicily and Malta became well-known for quality textiles and Malta's new rulers incorporated the islands into the province of Sicily. Malta, with Sicily, was ruled by the Vandals and the Visigoths in the 5th century and four hundred years later many inhabitants fled to Sicily following the Muslim conquest of Malta. Roger I, gained control in 1090 with Malta coming under the rule of the Norman kings of Sicily. Before the knights arrived, Sicily and Malta were both ruled by the Aragonese. Malta is today an excellent base for visits to Sicily, with numerous Maltese travelling regularly to Catania, Taormina, Palermo or Messina for short holidays. Caroline M. Jackson writes about her trip from Malta to Sicily for

From this small island smack in the middle of the Mediterranean, we were heading north on a daytrip to Sicily. By 6.30 am, we had cleared passport control and boarded the sleek catamaran which would make the crossing in an hour and a half. Operated by Virtu Ferries, the three-year old Norwegian-built catamaran more closely resembled the interior of an aircraft than a ferry. Expecting a great view after sunrise, we plunked ourselves on seats facing the sloping draped windows at the prow.

Minutes after our departure, I asked one of the uniformed stewards if we could open the drapes, only to be told: “You wanna seea the insida of a wava and get sicka?” Remembering the apostle Paul’s experience of getting shipwrecked in a storm off Malta, I meekly returned to my seat. Beside me a row of Finnish passengers were tucking into exquisitely packed boxed breakfasts. I unpeeled my banana and began to read my travel guide. Separated from mainland Italy by the Strait of Messina, triangular-shaped Sicily was named Trinacria (Greek for three points). Eighty-three times bigger than Malta, Sicily is 175 miles wide and 110 from north to south.

Sicily from Wikipedia

Smithsonian journey aboard SV Pantheon May 2005 -Malta and Sicily


Malta is the venue for the next snooker European Open. Scottish defending champion Stephen Maguire is the favourite. From the World Snooker Association:

All of snooker’s leading stars are heading to the Mediterranean island for the event, which runs from January 31 to February 6 and will be staged at the luxurious Hilton Conference Centre in Portomaso.

Welsh Open runner-up Stephen Hendry is next in the betting at 9/2, followed by John Higgins (8/1), Paul Hunter (10/1), Mark Williams (10/1), Neil Robertson (25/1), Ken Doherty and Peter Ebdon (33/1) and Matthew Stevens (40/1). The likes of Whirlwind White, Steve Davis and Maltese hero Tony Drago will also be competing for the title.

The tournament will be televised by Eurosport and you can also catch up with the latest news on Visit for details of package holidays to the Malta Cup

Global snooker centre

In this Q&A, 'Tornado' Tony Drago talks about Chelsea, gangster films and his mother's food.

Sharon Spiteri's musings

Sharon Spiteri, well known to readers of The Times, is back in the UK where she has been supplementing her journalistic experience with a degree from Cardiff. Refreshed from her Malta break she is now in Glasgow to take on her PhD ambitions. A theatre enthusiast and lover of red wine who I know well from the BJ's jazz days, Sharon will thankfully keep in touch with her friends via blogging and emails. This is her take on the news in Malta:

... so in Malta the two most watched programmes are news programmes. The first is the kind which takes place in a large studio with a panel of “guest experts” and an audience which is present and allowed to comment (something like Jerry Springer) but the topics are culled from news items. They had an asylum one a couple of weeks ago and I’m still waiting to get the recording for the pleasure of three hours of pure, unadulterated racism aired on live TV *sigh*

The other is a Parkinson’s type of programme which varies from one-on-ones to round-table debates. Anyway Maltese people are obsessed with politics and the news and see the two as interchangeable. The 8 p.m. news on state television, for years the only news programme, is still an “institution” despite the fact that it’s crap and that it has some serious competition from other stations.

News in Malta is extremely sanitised, no corpses, no mention of suicides, no sex, no foray into the private lives of public persons. I once wrote that a murder victim had been found in the text book position of autoerotic sex (asphyxiation/strangulation during sex) and all hell broke loose hehehehe. Another time I said that a murder victim was homosexual and I was sued for libel bahahahahaha!

Sharon Spiteri: Musings from Scotland

Virtually in Malta

From today's Times of Malta:

More than 1.7 million visits were last year made to, the Malta Tourism Authority's destination website, an increase of nearly 20 per cent over the previous year. An average of 4,700 visitors accessed the site every day.

The primary points of origin for visitors to the site were Italy (18.7 per cent of hits), France (13.7 per cent), the Netherlands (11.6 per cent), the UK (11.4 per cent), Belgium (7.4 per cent) and Germany (5.4 per cent). During 2004, Dutch and Japanese language versions of were launched, in addition to the existing sites in English, Italian, French, German and Chinese. A Spanish language version is due to be launched at the FITUR travel fair in Spain later on this month.

also featured on Holland Today News

Friday, January 28, 2005

Government inefficiency Part 1

The title from Julian Manduca's story in MaltaToday says it all: "Brussels allocates funds to a radio that does not exist". During a press conference just before Christmas, Tourism Minister Francis Zammit Dimech proudly announced a successful bid for 300,000 euros from the European Union to fund a project for the Voice of the Mediterranean (VOM). What he did not say was that the Malta based radio station, a partnership between the Maltese and Libyan governments, had closed down twelve months before and the European money was going elsewhere.

It would have been more useful had the Minister explained to the sleepy reporters in attendance what happened to the 800,000 euros worth of equipment most of which had just been purchased for the plush offices that housed the controversial head of VOM. The extravagant Richard Muscat had, according to MaltaToday, awarded a contract for a monthly 8000 euros of public funds to his own son's internet company. Rather than replacing Muscat and investigating the alleged mismanagement, the Authorities closed down the popular station and appointed the Nationalist parliamentary candidate as Malta's ambassador to the Irish Republic where he continues to enjoy his lifestyle.

VOM - Dead or resting? Richard Marlowe in his new look blog explains why he thinks this is a lost opportunity for Malta

MLP asks for VOM explanation from Parliamentary committee

Temples and Tombs intrinsically woven into our history by Minister Zammit Dimech


Four OpenDemocracy writers are attending the World Social Forum in Porto Alegre. They are blogging about the main developments at the global event for non-governmental organizations. At the same time, other OpenDemocracy writers are participating in the World Economic Forum in Davos and producing this blog. The Davos Conference has it's own official weblog.

Paul Hilder, in his latest essay for OpenDemocracy, proposes a map for 21st century democracy and discusses the challenges for the traditional political party in the context of globalization. Can it reinvent itself in a way that matches transformations of society, technology, and personal identity? He draws on global democratic experimentation to present a vision of the political party for an age of “open politics”:

Our critical imaginations should be sharpened by the awareness that parties as formerly understood may be disappearing. Who benefits, and how?

George Papandreou’s interview in openDemocracy (“Go ahead George, change it all”, December 2004) creates an opportunity to ask this question in a positive fashion. Most party leaders are defensive about the hollowing-out of the organisations they rely on. But Greece’s opposition leader sees the need and opportunity for a profound change if parties, and democracy, are to be renewed in the age of globalisation. Papandreou calls for a new kind of “open party”. That ideal, as yet found nowhere in reality, is novel even as aspiration.

At the beginning of constitutional democracy, the authors of the Federalist Papers, the founding debate of American politics, deplored parties as schismatic factions working counter to the interests of the commonwealth. Two hundred years later, could “open parties” instead bring public life closer to achieving the common good? What could they look like? Are they even possible? Would they depend, in turn, on a new pantheon of sun-god leaders?

African and Arab blogs

The latest post of Tripoli based Highlander links to a long list of blogs from Africa and also to the voting lists of the Arab Blog Awards. She also kindly mentioned this weblog. Thank you Highlander - I voted for you in all three categories:

I was pleasantly surprised to discover that many Africans were blogging from my beloved continent ( after all I'm African too ) check out this quite extensive list with relevant links. Hope you will enjoy another aspect of the blogging world.

On another note I made friends with a Maltese blogger ( * me waving to Robert*), since I love Malta very much, ladies and gentlemen I give you a 'window' on Malta : WIRED TEMPLES.

Many emailed me that they could not find the link to vote on the Arab Blog Awards, well obviously it was because I only linked to the site per se and not the voting section - as you probably noticed I did not canvass for votes . But if you are really interested than why not? here it is* best Arab ( English)* best every day life* best politics

New Year's Eve in Libya

Chess blog

Xadrez diario is a blog dedicated to chess news from around the word. This week the Malta International Open Chess Tournament came to a close:

On Friday 21st January the Paradise Bay ICT came to its final moments. The seventh and last round closed the programme of play. On first board GM Stefan Djuric and IM Saad Belouadah made an early draw; they started the round with 5 points each and thought they would be unreachable at the level of 5.5 points. In fact the only one within reach was Torben Sorensen who however faced the visitor from Monaco Patrick van Hoolandth; his sole hope to reach the top two was in winning the full point; winning strategy would lay him open to grave risks. Van Hoolandth would defend with drawing possibilities without risking dangerous skirmishing.

Looking the other way

The Nationalist Party is currently busy covering the steps of Alexis Callus, it's representative in Safi who has admitted to having been one of the promoters of last Saturday's gathering of racists and Nazi sympathisers. The event which took place in the town where Callus is deputy mayor representing the Governing Party stirred a huge controversy on the island particularly after it emerged that Callus's views were allegedly well known to his uncle the Maltese Prime Minister. While the Maltese Authorities remain steadfast in their support for Callus, the rest of Europe is commemorating the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, the biggest Nazi extermination camp. From today's Guardian news weblog:

"I realised that they were prisoners and not workers so I called out, "You are free, come out!""
This is a quotation from Vasily Gromadsky, one of the Russian officers who liberated the Nazi extermination camp Auschwitz in 1945.

Today is the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, the biggest of six Nazi death camps, where up to 1.5 million of the many millions of victims of the Nazis died as part of the "final solution" to exterminate the Jewish race.

Mr Gromadsky's story is told on the American Public Broadcasting site, which carries good material on the liberation and is one of many excellent Holocaust history resources on the internet.

The anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz has been chosen as an appropriate day for Holocaust Memorial Day, which is being commemorated around the world. Ceremonies are being held at Auschwitz, Krakow and Westminster Abbey.


MLP calls for resignation of Safi Deputy Mayor - the Malta Independent


Racism reddens our faces

The more sensible Ranier Fsadni, from the same camp, clearly does not exert much influence on the current strategists of the Nationalist Party. His article appears today on The Times. He should forward it to the Prime Minister:

There is a streak of Maltese racism that has come out more in the open since the incident at the Safi refugee camp two weeks ago. The way the incident has been discussed by some people - in public and in private conversations - has brought out a hostility not just to refugees but to non-Europeans more generally.

Now, Maltese racism should be combated because it is bad in itself. It is a self-destructive fantasy of power and human worth that, by denying full humanity to some people, destroys some of the racist's own humanity. But it is self-destructive in other ways. It threatens our economic future for a start. Being a fantasy that is completely cut off from how today's world is economically organised, racism is a threat to our competitiveness...

The Maltese people began that evolutionary leap into nationhood under the Knights when the population grew from some 20,000 in 1530 to 100,000 in 1798. That rapid population growth on such small islands was effected in part by a transformation of the economy - with our ports becoming hives of trading activity and cross-cultural interaction.

On its own, however, economic growth was not enough. The influx of foreigners was also necessary. It was an influx both routine and at times extraordinary, made up of refugees from the Ottomans, captured enemy soldiers and liberated Christian slaves; their numbers matched or exceeded, in terms of proportion of Maltese population size, those of today's refugees.

What is striking is how completely most of these foreigners - including non-Caucasians - were assimilated: today many Maltese are surprised to learn that we are a "melting-pot" that includes, among others, Jews and Africans. Multi-racialism, like cross-cultural exchange, is the very tissue of our identity as a nation.

Racism reddens our faces...and our balance of payments - the full article by Ranier Fsadni

Outdated Archbishop

Toni Sant defends cyberspace against the fire of the outgoing Maltese Archbishop :

It appears that Archbishop Mercieca is grossly misinformed about the nature of the internet and its true powers. I was shocked and dismayed to read today that he preached a dire warning about the ills of the internet, without exhibiting any idea of the incredible power it has to enable individuals to raise their voices above the humdrum of mainstream noise and mediocrity...

In decrying the dark side of the internet without much regard for the liberating aspects of the Net, the Archbishop chose to convey to his audience that there's still hope for old media to retain their sense of power over the masses. It's interesting to note that his audience this morning was made mostly out of old-fashioned journalists, who are little more than mouthpieces for Malta's main political parties; bastions of relative truths. For the sake of the Catholic Church in Malta, let's pray that the new archbishop (will he be appointed this year?) believes that the Internet is better that Mons. Mercieca declared it to be this morning.

Increase in internet subscriptions in Malta from MaltaMedia

Tensions in Malta

Kate McMillan, the Canadian artist who blogged about the immigration controversy in Malta has generated a number of comments in reaction to her posts.

From the WesternStandard blog:

I agree! When legitimate concerns on these issues are suppressed, then things begin to fester, the discourse envenimates to the point where only emotions matter! Words like "purity" and "homogenous" begin to dominate.
Posted by: John Palubiski January 24, 2005 08:37 AM

It's a recurring theme, isn't it? When will governments learn that when they apply curbs of political correctness to so-called race/culture sensitive issues, the result is to spawn Norman Lowells who then gather supporters because they can find no one else to speak to their concerns.
Posted by: Kate January 24, 2005 08:25 AM

Illegal immigration is one thing, but this Norman Lowell is quite another. I'm not completely sure who he is, but I do believe his mother was that infamous Nazi collaborator, Lotta Krappe!
Posted by: John Palubiski January 24, 2005 08:15 AM

From OutsideTheBeltway blog (comment entries started by Wired Temples):

It’s more like non-coverage by US media. The BBC and French media had extensive coverage of the efforts to keep illegal immigrants out of the Chunnel entrance in France and the status of the immigrant camp nearby. I also recall the constant reports of Albanians coming across the Adriatic to Italy. The flow of economic migrants isn’t anything new, but publicity of this sort only give people like LePen and Lowell a platform to spew more of their ideology.
Posted by: DC Loser at January 23, 2005 21:31 Permalink

Maltese is considered by linguists to be a dialect of Arabic, albeit more distinct than, say, Egyptian v. Levantine Arabic. The population is as homogenous as a mongrel, combining Arabs, Berbers, Italians, Greeks, and assorted invaders over its considerable history.
That said, there is certainly something to be said for trying to maintain a currently identifiable Maltese culture and not letting it get diluted by accident of history.
Posted by: John at January 24, 2005 01:26 Permalink

John, Point taken on maintaining an identity. But let’s take history as a continuum, I would assume every group in its time has tried to maintain its identity, but over time things conspire to change it. The current Maltese identity wouldn’t be what it is if it hadn’t been influenced by migration patterns over the millenia. One could say those “accidents of history” were what made them who they are today.
Posted by: DC Loser at January 24, 2005 08:47 Permalink

Lt Bell, What would you call what Lowell is doing? As far as I can tell, he’s a racist nut case. But things like this give him a platform to foam at the mouth and get him on TV. He’s using all the right neo-nazi buzzwords in that article, so his disclaimer is pretty unconvincing.
Posted by: DC Loser at January 24, 2005 08:51 Permalink

DC Loser: Of course! I merely note that people tend to resist change, particularly change that they do not instigate themselves. I’m bemused by the way some immigrants move to a place because it either offers opportunities that do not exist in the place they’re leaving, or have benefits that do not exist in the homeland, then try to replicate the conditions they just left. Whether it’s done to “protect ethnic identity” or simply resistence to change on the part of the immigrant, they seem not to realize that they are tending to make disappear that which was so appealing in the first place. Assimilation is always a two-way street, but the receiving culture should have “dibs” on the interpretation.
Posted by: John at January 24, 2005 13:34 Permalink

The benefit of the doubt? - The immigration controversy in Malta

Maltese across

A number of Maltese workers are relocating abroad in search of new employment opportunities. From yesterday's Glasgow's Daily Record:

Ten bus drivers from Malta were welcomed to Scotland yesterday as they started a new working life here. They made the 1500-mile trip from the Mediterranean island to work for Stagecoach Bluebird in Aberdeen.

One of them, Emanwel Buttigieg, 41, said: 'I have come here to get away from the heat. In Malta, we work long hours with no air conditioning.' There is a 5000 shortfall in experienced bus drivers across the UK.

Under water

Finding peace with oneself in Malta according to Leigh's blog:

Probably my most fond memory of the last ten years is the summer I spent in Malta in 1997. I learned to SCUBA dive and was introduced to a whole new world under the surface. At the risk of sounding very corny, being under water is the only place I truly feel like I belong! I made some very special friendships which I am pleased to say are still in tact, and made peace with myself finally.

So now I sit ten years down the line and seem to have come full circle. I am about to embark on another journey in my life for which I am feeling anxious, a little scared but mostly excited. There will be times where I don't know what to do, I won't have any money, and I will just make it up as I go along.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

In the family

The controversy surrounding Alexis Callus, the Governing Party representative who has actively promoted a meeting of Nazi sympathizers held on Saturday, could be indicative of Malta's current state of affairs. The meeting addressed by ultra right winger Norman Lowell took place in Safi, the town for which Callus is the deputy mayor representing the Nationalist Party. Callus confirmed to the Times that he was actively involved with the website (now offline) that promoted the policies and activities of Norman Lowell's racist party Imperium Europa. The secretary general of the Nationalist Party denied on Sunday that a member of his party was involved in the extremist get together in Safi. By Tuesday, he was admitting the involvement of Callus and as today's Times reports:

"the Nationalist Party has accepted the apology of a deputy mayor who admitted involvement in 'radical right' website promoting a right-wing activity and does not seem to be planning any action against him. Asked whether the PN was contemplating to proceed against Alexis Callus, the Nationalist deputy mayor of Safi, party general secretary Joe Saliba said: "Mr Callus was honest enough to admit having made a mistake. That's enough for me""

One startling fact carefully concealed by the Nationalist Party and overlooked by the mainstream English language media is that Alexis Callus is the nephew of Malta's PrimeMinister Laurence Gonzi. No wonder the Nationalist media rallied behind Callus who participates in internet discussions with the pseudonym "OperazzjoniC3" - a reference to the Nazi-Fascist plan to invade Malta during World War II. On the other hand, this incident could throw some light on why the Nationalist Party always resisted calls to change the party name. With a name like that and with the collapse of Christian Democracy in Europe, the Nationalist Party has an extensive identity problem.

Colourful underwater

For German speakers, the Der Reise weblog describes the colourful underwater world at the rocky coasts of Malta. It also tempts readers with the pleasures of diving, golf, cliffs, temples and more:

Sportbegeisterte erwarten an den felsigen Küsten Maltas exzellente Tauchreviere mit Felshöhlen, Schluchten und einer farbenprächtigen Unterwasserwelt. Auf allen drei Inseln gibt es Tauchschulen, die Kurse und Ausflüge ausrichten. Der „Royal Malta Golf Club“ ist mit seinen 18 Löchern und 5.054 Metern Länge für Anfänger und Fortgeschrittene ein passendes Spielfeld. Der Platz wurde von Sir Henry Torrens gestaltet, der bereits auf Golfarealen in Irland und Südafrika seine Handschrift hinterlassen hat. Wanderer locken die bequemen Wege ohne allzu große Höhenunterschiede im Landesinneren oder die Küstenpfade im Süden und Westen. Die Klippen von Dingli mit ihren prähistorischen Spuren oder die Türme von St. Lucian sind dabei begehrte Ziele.

Mixing German and Maltese culture

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Back to the eighties

My Ahn'Ahna jew M'Ahniex entry yesterday, quoted by Mark Vella's Xifer blog was a reminder of the eighties - the decade that gave us so much! An entry about Malta's unreliable power supply posted yesterday in candlelight by MaltaGirl is another reminder of those formative years:

The power cut started at 7:20pm and it's now *checks mobile* 8pm. I am sitting at the dining room table studying Finite Element Analysis by candlelight (the candles from my Advent wreath) and blogging the old-fashioned way - in longhand. Our whole block is without power but we have no idea about how widespread the cut is. The next village to the north has power, as does the one to the east, but Ghadira (miles away) doesn't!

In First Year, we spend a month at the
EneMalta training centre in Marsascala during the summer. Most of it was a complete waste of time and money, but it had its interesting moments. I enjoyed learning different ways to splice overhead power lines, and I distinguished myself by injuring myself twice: once I burnt my ankle (was arc-welding while wearing shorts, and my nylon sock caught fire) and another time I cut my knee on the metal shielding of an underground cable while learning how to splice it (I still have the scar). Anyway, while in training, one of the instructors brought out a map of Malta's grid system, showing all the substations and how they are linked together. (It was a biiiiiiig map!)

At times like these, I wish I could have one of those maps and see exactly where was affected :-) Wouldn't like to be one of the engineers and technicians currently scrambling to locate and fix the fault, though...

Books and Beans

Gozitan Pierre J Mejlaq is a writer/translator based in Belgium. He is warmly welcomed to the Maltese blogging community. This week his former lecturer Brenda Murphy is visiting him in Brussels:

Brenda Murphy is such a wonderful friend. She was one of my favourite lecturers at the University of Malta, introducing me to Semiotics and Cultural Studies. She was also my tutor while I wrote my undergraduate dissertation Exploring Identities: The Maltese Migrant in NYC in a Post-9/11 World, in which I analysed whether a group of Maltese migrants in NYC felt more New Yorkers following 9/11. I might blog about my findings one day.

Brenda arrived in Brussels on Sunday afternoon. She brought me a bag full of Twistees (Malta's very own crispy snack) and some delicious buns baked that same morning in Qormi, Malta's capital of bakers. I met her in the evening and went for a stroll around the old quarters. Dinner with Brenda at the Manneken Pis restaurant turned out to be very inspiring. We talked about my new academic adventure (as she wants me to describe it) and I slept thinking of how lucky I am to have friends like her.

Malta - Waterford's new baby sister - Brenda Murphy reports.

World Cup in Gozo by Pierre J Meilak

Dun Gorg Preca

My grandfather Crispin Mangion of Sliema was a close associate of Fr Gorg Preca, a Maltese priest who was beatified by Pope John Paul in 2001. Fr Preca created an organization which has now grown into the Society of Christian Doctrine M.U.S.E.U.M. with around 110 Centres and 1100 celibate male and female members. From a profile published on Malta Today:

The Church in Malta felt the need for this society but feared that its members were not sufficiently trained to teach children. In 1909, Dun Gorg was ordered to close down all his houses . But soon the curia's order was retracted. After many years in 1932 Archbishop Mauro Caruana approved the Society. After that date, Dun Gorg guided his Society with greater calm. Everyone revered him as a saint.

World War II affected Dun Gorg and the Society adversely but still it continued to expand. In 1952 it spread to Australia. That same year Dun Gorg was nominated a Papal Secret Chamberlain with the title of Monsignor. But he never donned a monsignor's vestment and actually left the document which conferred on him the title, on the Archbishop’s table and never bother to claim it back.

Wealth and worldly things never attracted him. He lived a simple life with spartan means. In fact he only got electricity installed in his house in 1958, when one of the Society members took the initiative to have it done for him. Till the end, Dun Gorg continued to teach in all towns and villages of Malta and Gozo. Many were enchanted by his words and deeds by his simplicity, humbleness and meekness. His words to the Society were "Teach, teach and teach, something of it will remain."

Watch the broadcast of Fr Gorg Preca's 1962 death plus other links (real player)

Hear the voice of Fr Gorg Preca

Pope John Paul's speech about Fr Gorg Preca

Swansea, shoes and superman.

Superman obsessed girl from Swansea likes fruity drinks and fashionable footwear. Searching for inspiration, this week she listed this blog as one of her favourites. In appreciation, I will one day take up her Timpana offer! Wired Temples is in sexy company. From the extraordinary woman in a mediocre life:

Mr muse (the temp, while my own muse is kicking up the heels of her very own fuck-me shoes) is either sleeping or off doing something unsavory to himself.. either way, he's not doing his job, so here I am.. Uninspired. So while I am STILL blocked as to what to write.. you can check out these blogs which I regularly pop into. If I was slightly cleverer than I am, I would have a column in the sidebar of my blog with links to these sites.. but no! So I'll do things the easy way and just list them in this blog right here. Have fun:

Forbidding divorce

The International Herald Tribune/Boston Globe reported yesterday that with the introduction of divorce in Chile, only Malta and the Phillipines continue to forbid it:

For supporters of the law - the right to divorce, especially for mistreated spouses - was long overdue in a society in which by some estimates almost 10 percent of adults are married in name but living apart, unable to legally divorce or make financial transactions without their estranged partner's permission. In updating its marriage code of 1884, Chile became the last country in the Americas to legalize divorce. Malta and the Philippines are the only nations that forbid it.

Critics of legalizing divorce, including the Roman Catholic Church, have warned that the new law will fuel a host of societal ills, from broken homes to delinquent children. They cheered the recent news that only 1,035 divorce petitions were filed from mid-November through the end of December. The Justice Ministry had predicted that tens of thousands of people would file. Legal analysts say that many people may be waiting to see how much bureaucracy is involved in the early petitions before filing their own.

Yet even before the divorce law, marriage was becoming an endangered species in this predominantly Catholic and traditional society, with the annual number of new legal unions plummeting to fewer than 58,000 in 2003 from about 105,000 in 1990, according to civil registry figures. More striking in a country in which most prominent Catholic schools do not admit "illegitimate" children, and in which until 1997 there was no law granting child support or inheritance rights for children born outside wedlock, more than half of children in Chile now are born to unmarried parents, one of the highest rates in the world, according to national statistics.

Trish Wilson's blog

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Mediterranean Hub

The 'hubbing' vision for Malta championed by Joe Woods is still relevant today. Mr Woods explains his vision of promoting Malta as a Mediterranean hub:

By developing Malta into the hub of the Mediterranean it can make itself relevant in a market of 220 million people and a very relevant region in the emerging global scenario. Our geo-strategic position and the different cultural influences we have had over the years, make Malta an ideal interlocutor between Europe and the African continent. Historically we have played host to numerous cultures, being a seafaring nation. This enables us to understand both the European mentality and the immediate North African culture.

We also have a good infrastructure set up with advanced telecommunications and more than adequate air and maritime distribution. Malta is also a safe haven for workers and their families and is generally cheaper than most European cities. These are aspects that give Malta a unique characteristic. I have identified about six business sectors that have developed hubbing initiatives. There are opportunities in tourism, financial services, education, aviation, maritime and information and communication technologies. To mention some specific examples Bank of Valletta, Globe Financial Services, Malta Freeport Corporation and Maltacom training centre are a few organisations who are pursuing hubbing strategies.

Malta as a business gateway from

Malta as an ICT Hub - Report of a Conference

Former US Ambassador to Malta promoted the islands as a business hub

The longest history

Revel Barker wrote this for the Independent (London). Via the library of

Malta's history is the world's longest, but easy enough to follow. The islands, as ancient continuous cart tracks still show, once formed a land bridge between Sicily and what is now Libya. The oldest manmade structures on the planet (constructed by giant women, according to folklore) are the temples of Ggantija on Gozo. The Phoenicians came here and planted cotton, and the Romans called the place Melita, the Greek word for honey. In AD60, St Paul was shipwrecked on Malta, and as something of a VIP (and Roman citizen) was taken to meet the local governor who he converted and who, in turn, converted the island - thus making it the first Christian country.

Fast-forward to 1530 when the crusading Knights Hospitaller of St John, having lost the Holy Land and then been driven out of Rhodes by Suleiman the Magnificent, grudgingly accepted sovereignty as a gift from the King of Spain. European history tends to overlook the glorious Siege of Malta (1565) during which the Knights learnt the benefit of occupying the high ground and built a new city, named after their grand master, Jean Parisot de la Valette.

Designed on a grid so whichever way the wind was blowing it could benefit from a breeze, Valletta became the world's most beautiful Renaissance city, "built by gentlemen for gentlemen". Though it may be showing its age, it is still one of the most stunning capitals in Europe. It also still bears the scars of a blitz in one five-month period in 1942; Valletta was an easy target from Sicily.

Ahn'Ahna jew M'Ahniex

Ahn'Ahna jew M'Ahniex is the cult comedy/satire series which hit Malta's TV screens in the late eighties. Vince Fabri, the well known guitarist on TV show Xarabank, was a key member of the team that is getting together this week for a reunion. In this interview with MaltaToday he recalls the good old days:

Eventually I got involved in my first musical: Fil-Parlament Ma Jikbrux Fjuri, based on Prof Friggieri’s book. We were more or less the same group as always, the same people who were doing street theatre. From then on we did not look back: ideas flowed and soon we were in the middle of producing Ahn’Ahna Jew M’Ahniex, which was something completely new for Malta. In fact it took about three episodes for the audience to latch on to what was happening. At first no-one could identify with the concept of Ahn’Ahna Jew M’ahniex and the response was not very encouraging. This caused us no end of worries: I remember that we had filmed all the episodes before the first one was aired and when we failed to get an immediate response it was quite a blow.

Luckily, by the third time we went out on air, people seemed to have got used to it. Looking back I can easily understand why people did not take to Ahn’Ahna Jew M’Ahniex immediately. Everyone was used to tele-series, such as F’Bahar Wiehed and Il-Madonna Tac-Coqqa. Then there was a hiatus where people eagerly awaited yet another series. When we hit the air-waves people were expecting a new story, they tried to grasp the plot to Ahn’Ahna Jew M’Ahniex and eventually discovered there was no real plot. However, the show soon took hold and became a household name.

Vince Fabri interviewed by Stanley Borg for the Times of Malta

Listen to the music of Vince Fabri here

Visual heritage lost - The National TV station PBS authorised the erasure of Ahn'Ahna Jew M'Ahniex programmes to save on tapes.


Malta's historical capital city from

Valletta, population 7048 (official estimate (2000), is the capital of Malta. Valletta is a 16th century site, with many buildings from the time of the Knights of St. John of Jerusalem (the Knights Hospitaller, or Knights of Malta), the long-time rulers of the city and the island. It is named after the founder, Grandmaster Jean de la Vallette. In Maltese it is colloquially known as il-Belt, simply meaning "the city". The city was damaged by air raids in World War II, notably losing its majestic opera house constructed at the city entrance in the nineteenth century.

Valletta is built on a peninsula, which is fed by two natural harbours, Marsamxett and the Grand Harbour, Malta's major port. It was founded in March, 1566, with the laying of the first stone of a church. The city contains several buildings of historic importance; the most noteworthy being St John's Co-Cathedral, formerly the Knights' church; the fortifications built by the Knights to protect the city from attack, the former Grand Master's Palace (now the Maltese Parliament), and the National Museum of Fine Arts. It is designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The population of Valletta has steadily decreased over the years, and is now reduced to about a third of its peak. This process was heavily accelerated after World War II as new development in outlying suburbs marked a shift of the population away from the capital city, but it continues as the center of Malta's commercial activity.

Valletta in detail by Wilfred Camilleri via

The new Valletta waterfront

The oldest man in Malta recalls taking the train to Valletta

Ornamental house signs

Gerry Dunlevy, proprietor of Ornamental Signs, produces simple house numbers as well as unique hand painted pictorial house plaques. From the house signs and things blog:

On the theme of Islands - here is a house name plaque with the pictorial of Malta and Gozo painted by Ivan. The customer asked for a pictorial of the island of malta with the maltese national flag superimposed on it as shown here.

Drinking wine in Glenn Bedingfield's cave

Glenn Bedingfield from Super 1 is one of the most recognizable faces in broadcast media. Others know him via his latest business venture, the L'Angolo di Vino Wine Bar in the historic city of Vittoriosa (Birgu). It is popular with wine buyers and also with yachtsmen who visit for the wine tasting sessions. From L'Angolo di Vino's website:

Come on down to Birgu and relax over a glass of wine at l'Angolo di Vino. After all, there may be no place as cosy to test-taste Glenn's thesis than this snug, cave-like wine bar.

Here, Glenn himself, or an extremely well-versed wine waiter, or maybe a slurping and slugging wine connoisseur is around to converse with you about the subtle differences between a Syrah from Malta, a Rhone Hermitage or a Crocodile Dundee Shiraz - just to mention but a few of the favourite wines you’ll come across while browsing the notable wine list.

Vittoriosa by Peter Prictoe

Monday, January 24, 2005

The benefit of the doubt?

Kate McMillan, is a freelance commercial and automotive airbrush artist living in Saskatchewan, Canada. She writes at small dead animals, which was voted the Best Canadian Blog in the 2004 Weblog Awards. She is also style editor at Outside the Beltway where she has just posted this entry about tensions with illegal immigration in Malta:

Staying well below the media radar is another European state struggling with illegal immigration. I don't know enough about Malta or the political climate to offer any opinion, but, I will offer that there is a pattern in the non-coverage given to these problems by the western media. The issues facing the Dutch in the wake of the Van Gogh murder, "Action Sweep Out" in Germany and this incident all share a common theme. Times of Malta, Jan.19

Keeping in mind my aforementioned disclaimer, I think that a country only 8 miles wide and 15 miles long, and within rafting distance of northern Africa might be extended the benefit of the doubt for creating strong deterents to illegal immigration. [CIA Factbook:
Not that everyone is rushing to

UNHCR Country Operations Plan for Malta

United Nations Refugee Agency - Malta Page

Investigating immigrant assaults in Malta from Wired Temples

Isle of intrigue

Canadian author Lyn Hamilton writes that Malta, a multicultural land invaded time and again, is a little overwhelming but ultimately endearing, even or--especially--if you go with mystery in mind. In my opinion, one of the best pieces of Malta related travel writing in years. This article was the featured cover story in last October's travel section of the Los Angeles Times. Ms Hamilton was, in part, an inspiration for this weblog:

The Maltese are more than accustomed to visitors, strange or otherwise, invading their homeland. Almost every nation with interests in the Mediterranean, from the Phoenicians in the 9th century BC to the British in the 20th century, has claimed Malta as its own, lured by one of the world's great natural harbors and a location smack dab in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea between Sicily and Tunisia. Some of the towering figures of history—St. Paul, Napoleon, Count Roger the Norman—have set foot on Malta's rocky shores.

All have left their stamp on the island's landscape, and as a result, Malta is a living, breathing museum, a place where the sweep of Mediterranean history, thousands of years worth, can be seen and touched and smelled. For a writer, Malta's particular blend of history is irresistible. For an author like me who writes archeological mysteries, there are enough crypts, caves and catacombs to hide a hundred bodies. But even for a writer, it's difficult to capture the essence of the place.

I've been coming here for 25 years, and yet I confess that I spend much of my time in Malta hopelessly lost, an embarrassing admission considering the island is only about 17 miles at its longest point, nine at the widest. I know where everything is—I just can't necessarily find it. I blame this partly on an approach to road signage that, despite recent improvements, is essentially whimsical. To my mind, both the signs and Maltese, a language the rest of us can neither comprehend nor pronounce correctly, are designed to keep invaders on their toes. We modern-day invaders are fortunate, indeed, that almost everyone speaks English.I am not alone in my directional dyslexia.

When I made a nostalgic return for a week last spring, I was determined not to get lost again. The plan, therefore, was this: To keep myself in line, archeologically speaking, I would start at the beginning, or at least at the dawn of human habitation, and work my way forward through the major eras in the island's history. That is one of the wonders of Malta: You can cover several millenniums in just a few days. As to my geographic ineptitude, I would travel by public bus.

Isle of Intrigue - the full article

A conversation with Lyn Hamilton

The Maltese Goddess by Lyn Hamilton

Murder in the Mediterranean - visit Malta and Tunisia with Lyn Hamilton March-April 2005 (pdf file)

Malta potatoes

Potatoes are the major Maltese export crop to the European Union, almost exclusively to the Dutch market. Malta exports approximately 7,000 tonnes of potatoes annually. From the Rural Development website:

The production of potatoes is an important agricultural activity in Malta. About 1,000 farmers, mainly part-time farmers, are involved in this activity. The total area cultivated is about 1,800 hectares and the total production is estimated to be 35,000 tonnes. The certified disease-free seed potatoes of the yellow-fleshed varieties (Alpha, Santé, Berber, Ditta, Arinda) are imported from Holland whereas the seed potatoes of the white fleshed varieties (Cara, Avondale, Slaney) are imported from Ireland.

In the period mid-March to Mid-May about 6,000-7,000 tonnes of potatoes are exported to countries of the European Union, mainly to Holland. The spring-crop potatoes from Malta are very appreciated in particular on the Dutch market. The Malta potatoes achieve premium and distinct prices from the produce of other European countries. In fact Malta potatoes are often referred to in the trade journals as the “Maltas”. The Dutch consumers, especially those having the traditional eating habits, have acquired a preference for our produce for which they are ready to pay high prices.

Malta facts from Travel blog - your source of online potato information

One-potato, two-potato - from Hannah's little corner

Crazy life

Allan Donaldson is a computer programmer from Walsall married to Beer from Thailand. He has a Maltese mother and spent his youth in Malta:

On and off (more on than off) I spent seven years in Malta. It was pretty much a party. Most of my time was spent in bars getting drunk, chatting up the tourists. Again Malta had it's ups and downs as everywhere else but again I only seem to remember the good times. Well I decided at the age of 24 that there is more to life than getting pissed and sleeping in fields.

More on Allan's personal history here

Thai Connections - Allan's other website inspired by his wife

1908 Central Mediterranean Tsunami

This is an excerpt from a report published in The Daily Malta Chronicle on December 29, 1908, after an earthquake hit the Straits of Messina between Sicily and mainland Italy. The resulting tsunami killed 200,000 people with 7.5 quake on the Richter scale. Via Daniel Stout:

The seabed appeared to be casting violently off the superincumbent mass of water and driving it to the shore. The Grand Harbour is protected by the breakwater; the tidal wave rushed unchecked into the Marsamscetto harbour. In the creeks the agitation was great.

In Msida creek the waters dashed right over the confining barriers and rushed up to, and into, the houses and shops by the shores. From the early morning it continued until after 4 p.m. People trembled at first to witness that which was taking place. After rising over the land, the waters receded and left the seabed bare near the shore, fish was picked up wriggling in the sand seeking to get back to their own element.

Europe's minutes of silence

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Language headache

The Euractiv website discusses the European Union's shortage of Maltese interpreters and translators. It says that Maltese translators are few (22) and interpreters even fewer (8) but since English is also an official language in Malta, the issue is more problematic for other new EU member states:

Finding Maltese interpreters is proving a particular headache for the Commission with no successful candidates emerging from a competition in November 2003. Of course it must also be borne in mind that both Maltese and English are official languages in Malta. With a budget for 90 full-time translators, assistants and other support staff for each of the new member state languages, DG Translations has so far found only 22 Maltese recruits. In the next worst position are Hungary, Latvia and Slovenia with 33 each. Interpretingwise, after Malta (8 interpreters), Latvia (48), Slovakia (48) and Slovenia (49) with Hungary topping the list (88).

Commenting on a Commission memorandum setting out the state of play on the provision of post-enlargement translation and interpreting services, UK MEP Andrew Duff (ALDE) said that matters were in a "transitional phase". He noted that interpreters from the new member states were often rather poor but put that down to a lack of experience. In addition, he expressed the hope that delays in written translations would provoke more "self-restraint" by authors. He said both Parliament and Commission could improve their drafting, noting that currently many texts are poorly drafted and overly long. He added that Parliament and Commission would be watching to see how soon working languages would begin to emerge more strongly, notably English and French. He indicated that there may be more nationalities following the Swedes, who tend to draft in English.

The European Commission: Interpretation after Enlargement

The evolution of the Maltese language by Joe Felice Pace

The Maltese language from Wikipedia

Maltese Sunday mornings

BellaBex, an 'international woman of mystery' reports on her disturbing Sunday mornings in Malta:

Walking back from my car at 6 in the morning after being out partying in Malta is always so disturbing. I'm staggering in one direction, all dolled up and trashed, and a swarm of housewives and little old couples are walking in the other direction to Mass. I thought walking back up Dalkeith Road the morning after the Mish made me feel like the Whore of Babylon, but my audience being on a mission to God gives it that certain special something.

Simply Heaven

Simply Heaven by Serena Mackesy is a new novel about a down-to-earth Australian reflexologist, Melody who falls in love with Englishman Rufus during a Mediterranean holiday. They decide on a spur-of-the-moment marriage in Malta. In this interview author Serena Mackesy reveals why she is a big fan of Malta:

Serena Mackesy: I just love the place; fell in love with it when I went to stay with friends in the container port of Birzebuggia 12 years ago and can never go back enough. It's the most centering place in the world, particularly if you're mildly barking. I love everything about the it. Well, everything apart from St Paul's Bay and Popeye Village. In no particular order, my edited highlights are: fields of rock and rubble that are covered, in Spring, with creeping thyme and dwarf irises; a language that can turn "St Jacob's Alley" into "Squaq San Jakbu" and "information" into "tal'genn"; walls made of old fridges; 6,500-year-old temples that have none of the hands-off, film set qualities of Stonehenge; the Elidor-like ghostliness of Valletta at night; roof dogs; the fact that EU safety regulations don't apply there, so that you have a very real danger of being clocked by a rogue Catherine Wheel at a village festa; the relentless eccentricity of the people; rock diving at the Delimara salt pans; forests of television aerials on piled-up sixteenth-century tenements; long rabbit lunches at Bobbyland on the Dingli cliffs on a Sunday; baroque churches in two-horse villages and the gobsmacking, breathtaking, weeping-fit-inducing view of Grand Harbour from the Upper Baracca Gardens. And the secret beach on Gozo, but that's a secret.

Serena Mackesy - from Chicklit, a site that celebrates women's contemporary fiction and contemporary woman's lifestyle.

A review of Simply Heaven from Random House

Good bye grandma

John Bobincheck from Orinda, California, writes about the death of his Maltese grandmother who passed away last year. Her characteristics are easily recognizable:

After many years of toughing it out, my grandmother died today. She survived a
lot of wild stuff in her days and after the stroke, the home stretch was no
picnic. But man, what a lady. She survived WW2 on Malta and immigrated to the US
soon after. Her life as an immigrant (as anyone could guess) wasn't glamourous,
but to me she always was.

When you are a kid, adults are awfully mysterious and the only thing that
matters is when they want to spend time with you - and she often did. She was
always making sure we were well fed. I was told long before I could know what it
meant to never go without food because you never know when you will have to go
without it. Later, my grandfather told me some stories of what it was like to
live on an island in a war. So, I stopped complaining.

I guess there's a lot that will pass on with her, things like the lullabye that
I can still hear her sing, but have no idea what it is because I don't
understand Maltese (except for the things my grandfather used to call me). The
baked pasta that had the specific density of lead but tasted so good you always
had at least two hunks. The way she could smile and let you know that this old
lady with one working leg can still see right through you and you aren't getting
away with shit, so don't think that you are, but, it's OK because I'm not going
to tell anybody. Would have been nice if she could have lived longer, but she
was done and I'm just damn lucky to have what I got which in the end was quite a

Saturday, January 22, 2005

Confused about the EU constitution!?

Why pro-Europeans should oppose the EU constitution - by a Green MEP

Why Eurosceptics should support the EU constitution - by a Labour MEP

The Wasteland media

Andis Kaulins from the law pundit blog compares the extensive media coverage to US President George Bush's inauguration with the near negligible attention given to the swearing-in of the European Commissio. He says that the Wasteland media has taken little notice of the ceremony today at the EU Court of Justice:

What a difference, and I am not sure it is a good one from the standpoint of the European Union or the major news media, if we look one day later after George Bush's inauguration, to the January 21, 2005 swearing-in ceremony of the
25-member EuropeanCommission by the EU Court ofJustice in Luxembourg.

We found the story at the Scotsman Online at EU High Court Swears in
European Commission
. Nevertheless, the home page of the European Commission had nothing about the swearing-in ceremony, not even at its press release page, as
of 5 p.m. Brussels time on this Friday, the day of the ceremony.

We did however find a mention of it at: the Agenda page of VivianeReding, Member of the European Commission from Luxembourg and the Agenda page of JoeBorg, Member of the European Commission from Malta. has a rather confusing calendric entry regarding the ceremony. The online front page of the BBC has nothing about it and concentrates on music, murder and soccer. How low the BBC has sunk in recent years. has an online front page filled with stupid garble about marginal events of little importance. An irrelevant photo captioned "Bush's father and Vice President Cheney give the president money for the collection plate" highlights the page and CNN then goes in one breath from that meaningless photo to Bush's very important inauguration message of US policy "with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world." What jerks the people at CNN are, treating the inauguration address and Bush and Chaney in church as vaudeville.There is no mention of the ceremony in Luxembourg.

Google News has nothing about the ceremony but a lot of muckraking. has nothing about the EU on its front page. The International Herald Tribune features Middle East events of no long-term importance. The German has nothing about the EU and features yet more news about a corrupt German politician. So what is new? Even our favorite German newspaper DieWelt prefers a sensationalistic article about nuclear weapons problems to sober reporting of Bush's inaugural speech. No word on the EU. When T.S. Eliot wrote "The Wasteland" he was probably foreseeing modern mainstream media:

"What are the roots that clutch, what branches grow
Out of this stony rubbish? [with emphasis on the rubbish]
Son of man, You cannot say, or guess, for you know only
A heap of broken images, [MSM - mainstream media - calls those broken images headline stories today] where the sun beats,
And the dead tree gives no shelter, the cricket no relief,
And the dry stone no sound of water. "

In any case, the EU ceremony, on the world scene, is apparently a "no event".On the other hand (we will exclude the on-the-ball Scotsman), when one looks at what garbage the major news media generally carry as their main news features, we can thank the Lord for blogs and bloggers.

Friday, January 21, 2005

Wealth of nations index

The popular European weblog is managed by Michael Manske of Slovenia. It is a particularly useful platform for a variety of observations! Thank you Michael for the kind comments and for adding Wired Temples to your blogroll (favourite links). From the latest entry on the Glory of Carniola:

I'm grateful to Robert of the Maltese blog Wired Temples for pointing out that Slovenia took first place in the 2004 Wealth of Nations Triangle Index. The index is compiled by the Boston-based WorldPaper, of which I know very little. (Actually nothing, but their "about" page is here if you're curious.) According to this, their index is calculated by measuring: "...a nation’s wealth as a balance among three legs of a triangle, one each for Economic Environment, Information-Exchange Environment, and Social Environment.

Each leg is composed of 21 equally weighted variables, with data collected in 2002 or 2003 from a number of internationally respected sources (see Sources). The more balance, the better the chances for sustained long-term development."

The triangle, which somehow reminds me of the Time Cube, allows
for a maximum score of 2400; or 800 per category. You can see that Slovenia did
the best in the social category, followed by information and economy. Despite
being number one, it still scored 141 points below the average "developed
country." (See the bottom of this page.) Nicholas Sullivan gives a brief summary of this year's results here, while Dušan Snoj (editor of GospodarskiVestnik) provides a look at Slovenia's "rise to number one" here.

Different versions on EU success

The Maltese President is back home following an official visit to Prague. Another version of the President's visit to the Czech republic which you did'nt read on the Maltese media. From Czech Happenings:

President Vaclav Klaus said today he does not consider the latest developments in the EU to be successful and that he feels "new dangers" ahead while his Malta counterpart Edward Fenech-Adami said the EU is successful and it will further progress with the European constitutional treaty. Fenech-Adami, who arrived for a there-day official visit yesterday, told journalists that his country will have no problem approving the EU constitutional treaty. Klaus said that opinions on the document differ in the Czech Republic which, he said, heralds a more complicated process. Fenech-Adami said he is convinced that the EU has been successful of late both in the economy and in the social field and that the living standards in the member countries are growing.

Klaus reacted saying he disagrees with the EU having registered economic successes. He said that some people only dream of the EU being stronger because its economic
growth is weaker and weaker every decade. Klaus, who is famous for his Euroscepticism and strong opposition to the constitutional treaty, said the EU has also been losing on the other continents. Fenech-Adami said that it is a pity that the EU does not yet have a single foreign policy. He said this could be changed if the post of foreign minister were introduced. Klaus criticised the EU Brussels headquarters for trying to centrally direct people's lives. That is why he is afraid for their freedom, he said.

Prague Monitor with news and links to Czech weblogs

Stamps showing ancient maps

Worldwide Stamps blog created by Charles Hughes highlights items of interest to stamp collectors. Entries include alerts of new issues, articles about stamp collecting and interesting stamp sites. In this post Charles comments on the latest Maltapost stamps that show ancient maps of Malta:

A set of four stamps was issued by Malta today showing ancient maps of Malta.
The 1¢ stamp shows the oldest printed map known. The map on the 12¢ stamps is
more detailed and accurate. The 37¢ stamp's map is from a fresco painted in the
16th century, and the Lm 1.02 value shows a pen drawing with the southwest of
the island at the top. Much more detail and a better photo of the stamps can be
found on this page on Malta Post's website.

View Malta stamps from

Waiting for the next election?

Richard from the UK based Simple as ABC blog refers to the international coverage of the immigrants controversy and gives his political assessment:

I was shocked to read in the Blog community (which where I get so much
news!) and then in the international media that those idyllic Mediterranean
islands of Malta and Gozo (not forgetting Comino!) have been thrust into much
unwanted publicity of late. See here.

As far away as India reports are rife about “the "bludgeoning" mounted as
some of the 450 asylum-seekers who protested on a football pitch last Thursday
in the Safi detention centre, 26 asylum-seekers were hospitalised, the UN High
Commissioner for Refugees said. According to UNHCR legal staff members from Rome who happened to be visiting Malta at the time and who went to the Safi centre, a former barracks, one of the injured had three broken bones in one leg, another had to take 15 stitches and a third received six stitches”.

According to 'WiredTemples' : "The Government had ridiculed repeated
calls for a National Conference on illegal immigration made by the head of the
opposition party
back in October. The MLP had suggested that such a
conference should be organised with a view to establish a national immigration
policy, a subject neglected for far too long by the Government".

So what went wrong? Now an 'enquiry' after the horse has bolted! When is
the next election? Seems MLP got it right then and get's it right now! No change
there then.

This is not the first time that Amnesty complained about Maltese aggression towards immigrants. Read a report about Malta from the UN Committee against torture here (1999)

UN blasts Malta's asylum policy

Rupert Colville reports for the Reuters Foundation about the incidents that took place on a football pitch


2005 is a special year for the people of Bormla (Cospicua) as they celebrate the centenary of the Immaculate Conception Painting Coronation. Preparations have started for huge festivities culminating on the 25th of June. From the Cospicua parish website:

The parish church stands majestically on the hill, where, according to pious
legend, the Blessed Virgin appeared to free a little child from the devil’s
clutches. A true gem and a rich repository of artistic treasure, the present
parish church is renowned for sumptuous silver artifacts, such as candlesticks,
apostle motifs, missals, antependia, a monstrance packed with diamonds and a
refined monstrance throne, its artistically executed altarpieces and the
gold-embroidered velvet altar cloths that adorn its numerous altars on feast
days. Besides its titular altarpiece, this church also flaunts several other
paintings by well known past masters, notably Alessio Erardi, Gian Nicola
Buhagiar, Francesco Zahra, Rocco Buhagiar, Virginio Monti and Giuseppe Cali`,
who painted the remarkable figures of the four main Old Testament Prophets on
the pendentives underneath the main dome, and the pictures on the vault of the

Tradition asserts that the original processional statue of the
Immaculate Conception was sculpted in wood around 1680 by Suor Maria De
Domenicis, a Carmelite Tertiary and a pupil of Mattia Preti and later on in
Rome, of Carlo Maratta, head of the Accademia di San Luca. She carved the statue
from the trunk of a carob tree, on which Our Lady is said to have appeared.

Cospicua photographs

Thursday, January 20, 2005

The land of Gary Neville and Maltesers

Thirty two year old programmer from Bury in the UK says Malta is a good place to visit. He went to the Manchester travel show where Malta was being promoted with the help of Maltesers, promotional films and Gary Neville. The Manchester United and England defender owns a home in Malta:

After not buying blank discs, I went to the Holiday and Travel Show at G-MEX, ostensibly with the intention of picking up some information from the stand that the Japan Tourist Board would no doubt have there. Except they didn't. I don't see why not, if Gloucester could be bothered having a stand (and they could) I don't see why Japan can't. It was a fairly rubbish event to be honest, but I only paid £2 to get in thanks to a voucher cut out of the paper. If I'd paid the full £6 (SIX POUNDS, SIR!) then I'd have not been best pleased, I can tell you. Still, I got to see Gary Neville who was working on the Malta stand, so that was good. They were giving away Maltesers as well. Ho ho. It was a shame that the bit of their promotional film I saw in the grandiosely titled Video Theatre was so poor, because Malta is really a very good place for a holiday.

Gary Neville signs deal with Malta

Gary Neville - International appearances for England

A week with Gary Neville in Malta + Fact file

The Kissinger transcripts

A transcript from the state department and George Washington University concerning the famous Conference on the Security and Cooperation in Europe of the mid seventies in which Malta was a protagonist:

This is the transcript of a conversation between Kissinger ( US Secretary of
State) and Gromyko (Foreign Minister of the Soviet Union) in Geneva on 10 July
1975. When they met, the CSCE had nearly finished its work and U.S., Canadian,
and European foreign ministers were working out the details. The basic problems
were to reach agreement Geneva on the CSCE's "Final Act" and to set a date for
an all-European summit in Helsinki. The conference had completed work on the
fundamentals of the Final Act: Basket I on basic principles, including language
on human rights, non-intervention, and borders (inviolability and peaceful
change) and arrangements for such confidence building measures as notification
of major military exercises, Basket II on economic cooperation, and Basket III
on humanitarian cooperation (family reunification, free dissemination of
information). Yet, the delegation from Malta would not join the 34 others and
approve the text, in part because it wanted changes in the language on
cooperation between the CSCE and non-participating Mediterranean countries.
Finally, a deal was cobbled to win Malta's support, yet the island's prime
minister, Dominic Mintoff, could not be reached. On July 10, as the "Malta
crisis" was unfolding, Gromyko, Kissinger and their advisers held a late
afternoon meeting at the Soviet mission in Geneva. The talks convey the
irritation caused by the Maltese but also the humor with which the superpower
diplomats handled the problem.

Transcript of Kissinger - Gromyko conversation about Dom Mintoff and Malta


Sal DeTraglia from Spain was in Malta this week for his employer's annual sales conference. He ate traditional Timpana followed by prickly pear liquor, as you can see from this photo:

The most interesting food item that I found in Malta was “Timpana.” Timpana is a
block of lasagna or compressed rigatoni encased in a pastry. I ate Timpano twice
during my stay. One was remarkably good; the other had the density of depleted
uranium. Pictured above is the good one. The bottle to its right is a Maltese
after-dinner liquor distilled from prickly pear, honey and herbs. Not nearly as
bad as it sounds, and after a kilo or two of Timpano…a good digestif is exactly
what’s needed.

How to cook Timpana (macaroni pie) from gozo-mag

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

The fruits of friendship

In an article on yesterday's London Times Michael Knipe writes that as a loyal friend and ally of Libya, Malta is aiming to benefit as Tripoli opens up to the West:

Through good times and bad Libya's most loyal friend has always been Malta. During the decades of international sanctions and global isolation, it was the Mediterranean island 210 miles (350 km) to the north that provided a lifeline to the African state, supplying just about everything down to such basic items as tinned fish and bars of soap.

Today, Malta is hoping that its close ties and intimate understanding of its Arab neighbour will ensure that it also benefits from the opening up of Libya's economy to Western investment and private enterprise. It is presenting itself as the perfect base from which international business with Libya can be conducted. Only a half-hour flight away from Tripoli, its 400,000-strong community shares a common Phoenician ancestry with the Libyans and trading ties between the two have existed for millennia. The Maltese say these links give them an unrivalled understanding of the Libyan mentality and business culture.

In recent years the close ties between the island fortress, once a bulwark of Christianity against the invasion attempts of the Muslim Ottoman empire of which Libya was a part, and Colonel Gaddafi's Islamic Arab republic, have been beyond question. When Malta obtained its independence from Britain in 1964, the first embassy it opened as a sovereign state was in Tripoli. Then, during its years of radical socialist rule under Dom Mintoff, it shared much political philosophy with Libya, where Gaddafi came to power five years later.

Thousands of Maltese live and work in Libya and, in spite of the religious differences, there have been many marriages between the two communities. Now, with Libya reforming its economy, privatising its state-run enterprises and seeking inward investment, business opportunities are abundant and Malta is keen to maintain its pivotal role in facilitating connections.

Some analysts believe that Malta will have to work hard to maintain the role it has enjoyed in Libya's international business dealings, now that Tripoli has resolved its differences with the West. Libya, they say, now wants to deal directly with foreign companies. They, however, cautious of an unfamiliar culture, are still likely to want to use Malta for back-office services, safe havens for families and a secure location for their goods. Malta offers excellent communications and transport links. And for foreign business people struggling with the pitfalls of obscure regulations, or the lack of them, the Maltese knowledge of the local business mentality is still a valuable asset.

Alternative Malta

Alison Galea, vocalist/guitarist of leading Maltese pop/rock band Beangrowers, kept a diary of the band's United States working visit last year. Their dream as a band is to have a proper tour of the US and to move to New York City! Day 4 of their tour from the alternativemalta website:

Yesterday (Friday) was the big day! In the morning played a live acoustic set
and had an interview with Austin's most popular DJ John Aielli. He asked so many
questions about Malta I was glad I remembered my Maltese history classes :-))

6pm Soundcheck at the venue, Fox and Hound

9pm - 9:40pm
SHOWTIME! Finally the moment of truth. We attracted at least 400 people to this
small outdoor venue and lots more joined in the crowd after hearing us from the
streets. They seemed to warm up to us straight away which was such a pleasant
surprise, me and the guys gave a great performance. It's so easy to perform well
when the crowd cheers and when i can see them moving to our music, most of them
smiling all the time. We had a great time, anyway. After the show loads of
people came up to us to meet us and after 15 mins we had already sold our last
CD! Now we can safely say our trip here was successful and a door has been
opened to new opportunities. And everyone is intrigued by Malta. We might be
attracting some Texans down there. The Malta Tourism Authority owes us!! - the portal of the indie and alternative scene in Malta managed by Luigi Pellegrini

Czech and Maltese presidents disagree over EU

The President of Malta Edward Fenech Adami is currently visiting the Czech republic . He did not find too much in common with Vaclav Klaus, the Czech President. From Radio Prague:

The Czech President Vaclav Klaus and the visiting Maltese President Fenech-Adami
disagreed over EU matters during talks in Prague on Tuesday. While the Maltese
head of state said that further EU integration was a positive thing and would be
further improved by the adoption of the European Constitution, President Klaus
warned of "dangers ahead" and criticized Brussels for trying to centrally direct
people's lives. Similarly as the right wing Civic Democratic Party, which he
established, President Klaus believes that the European Constitution would
restrict the country's sovereignty.

Full of eastern promise

"Turks: A Journey of a Thousand Years, 600-1600", is a spectacular exhibition of world art in London's Royal Academy. The Guardian calls it beautiful, curious and hedonist as well as serious. Jonathan Jones describes the Ottoman empire as one of the mightiest the world has ever known. He recounts how Elisabeth I linked Malta to Europe's survival and asks, can the Royal Academy's new exhibition do justice to the Ottoman empire?:

Five hundred years ago Turkey stood poised to crush Europe on behalf of Islam.
Even before Sultan Mehmed II took Constantinople in 1453, the Ottoman rulers had established themselves as the world's leading Islamic power. They seized Egypt
and Syria, pushed into Hungary and Transylvania, and to the gates of Vienna.
Mehmed's descendant Suleyman the Magnificent drove the Christian warrior Knights of St John out of Rhodes and then, in 1565, chased these last Crusaders to
Malta. From the far side of Europe, Elizabeth I declared that in the siege of
Malta the survival of Christian Europe was at stake....

Where it all went right lay in the Turks' ability to travel and assimilate and learn without, somehow, losing track of who they were. Tough and adaptable, they were born survivors. And yet, they didn't quite get to where they were going. The Knights of Malta repelled Suleyman's besieging army in 1565. Suleyman died leading his
army in Hungary. In 1571 a combined Christian force defeated the Ottoman navy at

None of this ended Ottoman power, which only disintegrated at the end of the first world war. So, what about the question this exhibition avoids by ending when it does - what went wrong? Nothing, with respect to Bernard Lewis, inherent to Ottoman culture. The same changes that doomed Istanbul eroded Venice, Florence and Rome - religion was not the problem, but trade. The Portuguese discovery of a sea route to India in the late 15th century - followed by the discovery of a western Atlantic continent - sidelined the Mediterranean. The 1,000-year journey of the Turks had them poised to become masters of a sea that was no longer the centre of the world. Highlights of Exhibition in pictures.

The Times reports on the divergent views expressed by Maltese students during a debate on Turkey's EU membership. A Canadian student was present for the debate and gives an account here.

From the Weekly Standard: Islamic Europe? When Bernard Lewis speaks.... (thanks to Mario Azzopardi)

The future of Europe

UN blasts Malta's asylum policy

The BBC today gave prominence to UNHCR's criticism of Malta's asylum policies in light of the recent aggression on asylum seekers. Ed Thomas takes a cynical approach on his weblog:

It should it suppose be obvious why the BBC and the UN are such natural partners. The BBC is the jewel in the crown of the nanny state that has, thanks to its old Empire network, gone global (oh where will all our- or even all their! - young minds go for enrichment should we not have Aunty Beeb?), and the UN loves telling people how to behave on the international stage. Naturally they have a lot to gossip about when they get together.

So how about Malta then? Those naughty Maltese have decided unilaterally that their island is not very big and that they are neatly placed as a stepping stone on the way to places and that therefore they can't go easy on scroungers, sorry, asylum seekers who come to their shores. Terrible. Somebody really ought to tell them off, make an example of them. I know, how about nanny UN and aunty BBC in tandem?

United Nations blasts Malta's asylum policy - from today's BBC news

UNHCR - The UN Refugee agency

Investigating migrant assaults

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Fabrizio Faniello

Maltese singer Fabrizio Faniello discusses the participation of foreign composers in this year's Malta Song for Europe:

"I have nothing against the foreign composers in our selections, but we should
only allow composers from countries where Maltese composers are allowed to
submit songs too. We will see if the rules will be changed. I believe further
discussions concerning this topic will take place in Malta later this year. The
rules currently allow foreign composers and we will have to follow these rules
and accept them." A foreign composer winning the Maltese selections would
neither work on Fabrizio's nerves. "Since there is televoting, it simply means
that the Maltese TV audience liked that entry the most." - your daily eurovision centre

Maltese language in Blogosphere

Mark Vella, a Maltese linguist working for the European Commission, has thankfully resumed his Xifer blog. A cutting-edge publisher before moving to Luxembourg, Mark like Immanuel Mifsud is showing the way for the Maltese language in blogosphere. In this piece he relates the issue of political bullying in church schools with his own experiences:

Il-bullying politiku huwa realta' fl-iskejjel privati u tal-knisja. Huwa
istituzzjonalizzat u ilu jezisti daqskemm ilha tezisti l-firda politika
f'pajjizna. Bizzejjed tibda mill-isforzi li sehhu u li forsi ghadhom ta'
l-impozizzjoni ta' l-Ingliz bhala lingwa ta' komunikazzjoni u t-tkasbir ta'
l-Ilsien Malti, f'loghba ta' setgha elitarja li hija l-hamrija ghall-holqien ta'
klassi dominanti partikolari. Missieri, li hu neputi ta' Guze' Ellul Mercer u
kien imur San Alwigi (fi zmien il-ferlas u l-accipe), jirrakkonta li qassis
ghalliem tal-Malti kien jaqbez il-kitba ta' Ellul Mercer meta jkunu qed jaqraw
l-antologija letterarja, u meta l-politiku Laburist miet u ndifen fil-mizbla
bhala mizura imposta mill-infami Interdett, kien gie student u qallu li zijuh
kien fir-realta' spara ghal rasu.

Temple builders of Malta

Radio Netherlands reports about a special exhibition at the Allard Pierson Museum of Archaeology in Amsterdam. It deals with the temples of Malta and the technologically advanced people of the time:

The small island of Malta was the cradle of a thriving European civilisation
that peaked as early as 5200 BC, and built temples more than a thousand years
before the Egyptians began erecting their pyramids.To mark Malta's entry to the
European Union, the Dutch ambassador to the island, Adrian Strickland, arranged
for a special exhibition to be held in the Netherlands.

"Nobody knows the name of the prehistoric inhabitants of Malta, which is why we simply call them ´Maltese´," says Geralda Jurriaens, conservator of the Allard Pierson Museum in Amsterdam. Even after seeing the exhibition most of the mystery surrounding the ancient people of Malta remains. Much can be learned from the tools, statues, temples and other archaeological remains that have been found, but according to museum director Robert Lunsingh Scheurleer, we will never be able to know what the ancient Maltese thought, or how they saw their world.

Some clues, however, are fairly obvious. For instance, the Maltese must have originated from Sicily. Sicily is the nearest island to Malta and pottery has been found there in a style that matches the earliest finds on Malta exactly. This also proves that, more than 7000 years ago, these prehistoric people managed to cross about 100 kilometres of sea.

Once settled on the island, the Maltese began building temples in around 4000 BC. These structures bore no resemblance whatever to the temples we know from Greek and Egyptian antiquity. The earliest examples are in fact artificially enlarged caves. The floors of these subterranean places of worship took the shape of a cloverleaf. Their entrance would be at the ´stilt´ of the leaf, and the different chambers of the temple would be arranged like the different segments of the leaf. The walls of the cave were rectangular and smoothed, and elaborate curved ceilings
and doorways were cut from the rock as well.

When the Maltese ran out of natural caves they started building their own above ground. Gargantuan cloverleaf-shaped buildings were erected using massive blocks of stone. The next step was to cover the whole construction with a thick layer of earth. The result was a little hill with a brand new `temple cave` inside.

The temples of Malta have recently been placed on the UNESCO world heritage list. "The statues of their gods provide us with some clues about the religion of the Maltese," says Robert Lunsingh Scheurleer. The highly stylised female figures with
enormous thighs undoubtedly played a role in a fertility cult. This is all the more likely because stylised phalluses have been found as well. Besides, for prehistoric man fertility was not only vital but also inexplicable - no better basis for a religion.Similarly, sickness and health also had a religious aspect to them, the proof being a small figure of a woman who is clearly very ill. Its horribly twisted spine was most probably an amulet used to ward off precisely such an affliction.

Technologically speaking, the Maltese were very advanced. Even though the wheel had not been invented yet, they managed to cover their temples with massive slabs of stone weighing up to 20 tonnes. To move them into place, egg-shaped boulders were used. These were placed under a block of stone that needed to be moved. The egg-shaped boulders were particularly useful for making turns, but there were also pillar-shaped ones used to negotiate straight lines.Given that the Bronze Age was still thousands of years in the future, the tools the Maltese cut from flint were extremely well made. In fact, the quality of their scrapers and axes was such that - even today - they are still sharp enough to give someone a nasty cut.

Self-sufficientMalta is a truly tiny island. Greater London would probably cover it completely. And yet, for thousands of years, the ancient Maltese survived on nothing more than their own agriculture and cattle. The remains of their cooking places show that their diet was quite varied. It included beans and grain, but also meat. Production must have been well-organised to sustain the people with such a rich variety of foodstuffs. Hunting and gathering, which was the normal way of life for most of prehistoric mankind at the time, was not an option for Malta.

It's a complete mystery why the ancient Maltese, the temple builders, suddenly
disappeared after 2500 BC. Was it an epidemic or famine that brought this
fascinating civilisation to an end?According to director Scheurleer, one thing
is certain: it wasn't violence. That would mean that villages and homesteads
would have been burnt down, and the telltale layer of charcoal that this would
leave in the ground is simply missing. This explains why the remains have been

Island archeology of Malta

UNESCO World Heritage List - results by country

Malta synonymous with Knights and Crusaders

This article in yesterday's The Times (online only for a few weeks) discusses the opportunities for Maltese tourism marketing that arise from exploiting the historical links with Crusaders and Knights. Joseph Muscat, a popular member of the European Parliament makes the case for a campaign that focuses on putting Malta's history on the global map:

The United States is nearly always the place where trends are set. Europe and
Asia follow suit months later. The first reality shows, the father of all the
Big Brothers of this world, were aired in the United States. Practically all the
different contortions of this phenomenon emerged from there too, including the
tasteless Who's Your Daddy? where an adopted child gets to guess who are his
natural parents from a given set of people. Useless to say that the show will
soon be exported elsewhere. At the same time, there are other trends which are
much more worth noting and which have interesting potential for our country.

One of these trends is what seems to be the Americans' current passion
for everything that has to do with the Crusaders, the Templars and the Knights
in general. Some say this passion was subconsciously triggered off by George
Bush's war on terror, which is many times personified by extreme Muslim
militants. Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code, which took The New York Times bestseller
list by storm more than 18 months ago, was the main catalyst of the Americans'
new born interest in this sector. The Templars and their symbols play a key role
in the controversial historical plot put forward by Mr Brown. There were many
other works that spawned from this book, many of which have the crusades and the
different orders of the Knights as their main theme. Major networks, including
NBC and CNN, have also produced prime-time documentaries related to these
issues. This was the first sign that the trend would be relayed from the printed
to other media.

In fact, in less than 12 months, the major movie producers will have released at least three blockbusters on this theme. The first was National Treasure, in which Nicholas Cage plays the part of an Indiana Jones type of hero who is after a treasure that Christopher Columbus brought from Europe and which the screenplay connects to the Knights. Soon we will have the second movie, Kingdom of Heaven, in which Orlando Bloom plays a crusader in what is said to be an epic movie. In the meantime, Ron Howard is filming the big screen version of Dan Brown's book, with Tom Hanks playing Harvard professor Robert Langdon. These movies are and will be hitting the United States, Europe and elsewhere by storm and are likely candidates for box office top spots.

In other words, the Crusaders and the Knights in general are back big
time. To the mind of many people, Malta is synonymous with all this. It goes
without saying that those responsible for marketing our country should move
quickly to make a short-to medium-term campaign focusing on Malta's historical
ties with the Knights. Given the unfortunate events that took place in Asia,
many holidaymakers worldwide will be seeking elsewhere for their holidays in the
near future. Focusing at least a part of our resources to put part of our
history in evidence would help us reap the benefits of an up-and-coming global
trend. It is likely that such a campaign would catch the attention of new
markets of tourists having a relatively higher purchasing power. But to do so, we must be quick and creative. And, of course, we must get our act together and hasten the upgrading of our infrastructure and save historic places, such as Fort St Elmo, from the shameful state they are in.

Read more articles by Labour MEP Joseph Muscat here

Monday, January 17, 2005

Who will teach Joschka Fischer?

What happens when "two hot-blooded women, one American and one French, both living in a socialist paradise called France, meet in the middle of a transatlantic diplomatic crisis?" They produce this blog from which this piece is taken:

German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer was caught red-handed, ignorant of the
name of Malta's capital, it was reported on Saturday in the popular Daily Bild. Questioned by children as part of a quiz for famous people, the Germany head of diplomacy first said that the capital of Malta was called Malta. [When the children] gave him a second chance, he had to admit he did not know the capital of this country, that joined the European Union in May, was called Valletta.
Only consolation for the deputy chancellor, it wasn't difficult for the young journalists to expose geographical blanks of other important German politicians.

From the same weblog: The CIA predicts that EU could break-up within 15 years

Europe and the future of Transatlantic relations - a new paper by Joschka Fisher

The great Maltese bird massacre

From yesterday's edition of South Africa's Sunday Independent by Mike Cadman:

Every year the migrating birds run the same gauntlet of death. As they fly
across the Mediterranean Sea southwards towards Africa, tens of thousands of
raptors, swallows, bee-eaters and other migrants, tiring from their long
flights, descend towards the Maltese coast to rest - and are greeted by a
maelstrom of shotgun lead. Some of Malta's estimated 16 000 hunters and trappers
await the birds in power boats, shooting them out of the sky over the sea.

Others set up hides near well-known roosting spots in nature reserves,
while others simply shoot from country roads or wherever they see the birds.
Some ornithologists estimate that more than 1,5 million birds are shot or
trapped in Malta annually. As many as 10 000 raptors (birds of prey) are shot,
most illegally. Malta is an important resting point for birds using the Central
Mediterranean Flyway migration route into Africa.

Some of the migrants, including honey buzzards, European hobby falcons, lesser kestrels, barn swallows and European bee-eaters, are headed for South Africa 6 500km to the south. Others are en route to central or east Africa. These prodigious journeys require remarkable feats of stamina and navigation, and the birds need to cross deserts and mountain ranges and negotiate bad weather and other hazards to reach their destinations. Nature takes its toll through exhaustion, starvation and injury but many fall to Malta's shotguns even before they reach Africa's coast.

Read the full article here

Eagerly awaiting the Colonel

Is Jason Azzopardi overstepping the Maltese Foreign Minister? From the Libyan Jamahiriya Broadcasting Corporation:

The Chairperson of the Foreign and European Affairs at the Maltese parliament,
Jason Azzopardi, has expressed his country’s pride in the Leader of the
Revolution, asserting that the Maltese people are eagerly waiting a visit by the

In his meeting with the Secretary of Foreign Affairs at the General People's Congress, Azzopardi assured Libya’s important role in all levels, saying that Libya and Malta are important gates for enhancing AU and EU cooperation. He declared that his country strongly supports the call made in the statement of the General people's Congress , calling for an African-European conference to address the illegal immigration problem. The meeting also discussed the development of bilateral relations between the Secretariat of the General people's Congress and the Maltese parliament. - The website of the Malta Ministry of Foreign Affairs is currently unavailable!

Nina's Sphere

Nina's sphere is the blog of a Maltese girl who's living it up without falling flat down. A little off balance in general, she is in her mid twenties and blogs with a view to share some of the comical episodes in her life. In this piece she goes shopping in Valletta. Funny she mentions the late Grace of Monaco - I am occasionally told that I bear a likeness to her son Albert!:

I was recently wandering the streets of our Baroque capital city, dear old Valletta… Nah! Let’s be honest. I wasn’t exactly wandering. You know that as well as I do! It was more like I was working very hard on my retail-therapy. (The first step when it comes to overcoming a serious problem like shopping is certainly admitting it, or so I am told.) Ergo I’m on the right track to healing my need to shop until I drop – fabulous! Which means that today after work, I’m going to reward my efforts by buying those gorgeous sexy red stilettos! Then of, course I’ll need a bag and possibly a belt to go with them…

Hmmm. Have just re-read the previous sentence. Do I hear that little eerie high pitched voice in my head (i.e. my conscience – as opposed to a psychotic manifestation) screech ‘counter-productive’? The words reverberate in my head as though trailing out of a damp hollow cave into a bright sunny day. Yes, indeed. I see how that can make sense. (Again another admission! I am improving at every step!) Better put my conscience on mute then! You see – I am a practical person after all! He he he!

Right, back to my shop-your-problems-away quest. (Here I am - calling a spade a spade!) I was in quite a good mood, feeling very at one with the world. Wafting on a pure white cloud of harmony. Able to make allowances for inconsiderate people who bump into you because they are talking on the phone, busy searching for something which sunk to the pitless bottom of their handbags, or plain confused.

Smiling graciously (in manner of Princess Grace of Monaco – obviously prior to her tragic death) when some inane pedestrian crosses my path and when forced to choose between maintaining course on MY trajectory or backing away gently, without making any fast movements, chose the latter, etc. I could sense it in the very crisp, hair-lashing windy air that this was going to be all very Zen-like. Yes. The flow was leading towards a satisfactory shopping expedition.

EU Railroaded

Single Planet is intrigued by the fact that train-free Malta has a say in the running of European railways:

Malta and Cyprus have had representatives appointed to the board of the EU's new European Rail Agency, whose job "will be to reinforce safety and interoperability of railways in Europe". As neither country has any railway track - and never have had - this should bring immense benefits to European rail safety. Politics, eh?

Correction: Malta did have trains between 1883 and 1931 -

A non-existent law

Fausto Majistral noticed my note on today's Malta Independent on Sunday and agrees that letters to the editor are still useful to channel ideas as well as to promote blogs! The editor was also kind enough to print a nice cartoon to go with my letter:

The article “ Freedom of Information law non-existent in Malta” (TMIS, 9 January) is useful because it reminds readers that Malta, unlike most of the European Union member states, has no freedom of information legislation in place. This means that the public has no access to public information or government documents “unless otherwise expressly provided for or unless they have been placed at the National Archives and open for public inspection”. As Dr Kevin Aquilina states in his paper, “Freedom of Information under Maltese Law”, Government employees and employees of various bodies established by law have a “duty” to maintain secrecy with regard to the business of their respective department or body.

Most European Union countries have introduced laws that allow greater access to information held by public authorities. Countries with traditions of government secrecy such as Germany and the United Kingdom have been slow in making progress. They are now prepared to allow public access to official information. The Freedom of Information Law in the UK is now in force. It gives the public the right to request information on any subject from any public body. And this has to be provided within a month unless there is a good reason not to. Any individual can also ask for all personal information held about him/her. Public contracts are open to all for scrutiny. In Germany, the much-debated Freedom of Information Law will be in place around June this year. It was not passed on 17 December 2004 as stated in your report – that was only a first reading of the draft law.

Once the German law is in place, only the citizens of Luxembourg, Cyprus and Malta will remain without such rights in the European Union. Maybe smallness breeds secrecy. This is a subject that I turn to from time to time in my weblog at: Anyone who would like to contribute ideas or suggestions is welcome to post comments on the blog.Your report will hopefully help raise awareness in this country about the urgent need to deal with Malta's traditions of government secrecy, which are not compatible with a modern open society.

Government secrecy

The Ramblings of Garan Dallimore

Garan Dallimore , celebrating the first anniversary of his blog, has a passion for rugby and lives in the British countryside. He has a particular interest in all things related to the TV, cable and satellite industries and was in Malta last year for a working visit before travelling to Sweden. He is convinced that Malta's 'windy and bendy' roads were designed to make Malta seem bigger:

I've been working in Malta for the last couple of days. It's been interesting to watch people on holiday when I'm here with work. Puts a different spin on things. One thing I've noticed is how many couples are sitting together in complete silence. Be that in a bar, walking down the street, sitting in a restaurant or having breakfast. Some people look so lonely. Some people will argue that there's only so much you can say to one person... But looking the other way there are happy looking couples chatting away at nineteen to the dozen. They're probably talking complete claptrap! But they look like they're happy and that's good enough for me.

So what's working in Malta like? It has a lot in common with other Southern European places I've been to (Malta is in the EU now before anyone starts telling me that I can't call this a 'Southern European' country!). The people all seem a lot more laid back than they do in the UK. It's too hot to rush around I guess. I don't think that I could live here. It's the little things like trying to get a taxi (they don't have radios so you need to know where to go), getting to the supermarket before it closes at 6pm and I'm baffled by the spaghetti road system. Didn't their Italian neighbours have any influence on the road designs? But when you're living on such a small island, making the roads windy and bendy makes the place feel bigger!

Research shows Maltese are happy people!

Matthew Mizzi Malta Rugby blog

Sunday, January 16, 2005

United Nations abortion push reported extensively in December on the United Nations committee recommendation to Malta to legalize abortion which was rejected by the Maltese Government and condemned by the Catholic Church. of the Illinois Federation of Right to life was the first source that revealed the directive of the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights which includes a Maltese member Franco Depasquale ( retired Judge currently busy with the immigrants assault investigation ). The Covenant member states elect the Committee's 18 expert members who serve in their individual capacity for four-year terms. Article 28 of the Covenant requires that "they shall be persons of high moral character and recognized competence in the field of human rights." The committee recommended that Malta should "review its legislation on abortion and consider exceptions to the general prohibition of abortion for cases of therapeutic abortions and when the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest." From the report by LifeSitenews:

The Bishops of Malta issued a press release condemning the abortion push. "The United Nations Committee's pressure on the Maltese State to legalise abortion in certain circumstances is objectionable and unacceptable. We regret very much the United Nations Committee's decision to make such unfortunate pressure on our country," said the statement signed by Joseph Mercieca, Archbishop of Malta; Nicholas J. Cauchi, Bishop of Gozo; and Annetto Depasquale, Auxiliary Bishop of Malta.

The bishops encouraged "the Maltese people to remain steadfast in their appreciation and defence of human life from its conception, and in their total rejection of abortion." They concluded by addressing Maltese officials. "We also encourage all the representatives of our people to continue not only to reject abortion without any reservations, but also to never stop pronouncing themselves in defence of life and against the killing, through abortion, of persons totally unable to defend themselves," the Bishops wrote. Malta has been outspoken in defence of its pro-life legislation. The Catholic Church in the predominantly Catholic country has been at the forefront of the battle to defend life.

In 2002, the European Union's enlargement commissioner, Gunther Verheugen, assured Malta Archbishop Mercieca that the European Union would never take jurisdiction over abortion. Verheugen stressed that the EU would never tell Malta or any other member state to legislate in favour of abortion. The EU, he pointed out, had no jurisdiction over abortion or similar issues and this position was "definite, absolute and forever".

That same year, Malta's Permanent Delegate to the EU, Ambassador Victor Camilleri, criticized an EU resolution in favour of abortion, reiterating his government's position on abortion. "Not only is abortion illegal in Malta," he said, "but successive governments... have been strongly committed to retaining the legal prohibition and have held this position also in the context of European and international fora, not least at the level of the United Nations." He said abortion is a domestic issue on which the EU "has no competence to act, decide or legislate"

Malta attacked by the UN - from the catholic weblog Chateau du Meau

Malta Bishops Assail U.N. Pressure to Legalize Abortion - - Global catholic news

Maltese EU Commissioner Joe Borg was more careful in his choice of words than Rocco Buttiglione-interview on abortion-Malta Today

Catholic information sources: Catechism of the Catholic Church - Search Engine; The Catholic Encyclopedia - Information about Catholicism; The World Seen from Rome - ZENIT News Agency; Vatican News Services - Media summary; The Holy See - The Vatican Home Page; The Maltese Church - the official website; MalteseNetworkResources- Catholic portal and news service

The French surrender Malta

This is the text of an article (available online against payment) written by Richard Cavendish for leading magazine History Today:

The Knights of the Order of St John of Jerusalem, or Knights Hospitallers, driven out of their stronghold of Rhodes by the Turks, moved to Malta in 1530, making Valletta one of the strongest fortress cities in Europe. In 1798, however, Napoleon Bonaparte arrived on his way to Egypt and demanded that his ships be allowed into the Grand Harbour to take on water. When he was refused, he put troops ashore and sent the Knights packing. Many of the islanders were relieved to be free of them, but as the French began to apply sound revolutionary principles involving heavy taxes, higher interest rates and an attack on the Roman Catholic Church, relief turned to resentment. An uprising in September confined the French garrison of some 4,000 men under General Vaubois to Valletta and the other fortified towns.

At this point the British intervened. A modest naval force was sent to assist the islanders, commanded by Captain Alexander Ball. Ball mounted a blockade and smoothed over the mutual suspicions and hostilities of the Maltese insurgent leaders. The siege settled down to a question of who would starve to death first, the French or the Maltese. In December 1799 British troops arrived to increase pressure on the French and in February 1800 reinforcements came from the Two Sicilies. The islanders were suffering desperately from hunger and disease, but the plight of the French was worse: by August they had eaten all the dogs and cats in Valletta.

In early September Vaubois sent word to Major-General Henry Pigot, commanding the British troops, that he was ready to surrender; the capitulation was signed on the 5th after negotiations to which the Maltese were not invited. The French were to withdraw to Marseilles -- the British had no way of feeding them if they were taken prisoner -- while the British wondered whether to return Malta to the Knights of St John. Ball urged keeping the islands as a naval base and a centre for trade. Nelson disagreed and the London government bided its time, while Ball was left to run Malta.

In 1802 Malta was returned to the Order of St John as part of the Peace of Amiens, but a delegation of Maltese arrived in London, demanding to be placed under the rule of George III and his successors. The peace did not hold, Nelson changed his mind, and the British remained in control. Ball, who loved Malta and was very popular there, ran the islands until his death in 1809. In 1812 a commission reported it `a matter of gratification to find that in opposition to some representations made by a small disaffected party in the island, the great mass and body of the people were happy and contented; warm in their professions of attachment to Great Britain, and thriving in wealth and population to a degree almost unprecedented.'

COPYRIGHT 2000 History Today Ltd.

Peaceful Malta belies stormy past

A canadian perspective from David Wishart:

In 1940 Italian bombers attacked Malta and for a while the defence consisted of three RAF Gladiator biplanes, the legendary Faith, Hope and Charity. The Germans then had a go, destroying 11,000 buildings in 3343 air raids. Malta held on and was awarded the George Cross. Top air ace was the Canadian George Beurling. More than 300 Canadian war dead are buried here.

Today only the Opera House remains in ruins and Valletta sparkles in the Mediterranean sun, capital of an independent and prosperous country. The 365,000 Maltese speak their own language which is 60 per cent Arabic, although English is not only widely spoken but English-language schools are almost as prolific as "arret" signs in Quebec.

Until not so long ago most visitors were British, but these days large numbers of tourists from the rest of Europe have discovered Malta's charms. Canadians are starting to arrive via Air Malta's growing European network which includes non-stop flights from London and Paris.

I loved spending a morning strolling the alleyways and markets of Valletta, walking through the living museum of Mdina, a siesta by the pool, then a sundowner in the fashionable Sliema district followed by a promenade along the water's edge to a tiny harbour surrounded by restaurants open to a cool Mediterranean breeze.

Valletta's Grand Harbour is just that, as magnificent a port as Hong Kong, Sydney or Rio. What an experience it is to be there in the wake of Roman galleys, Nelson and the oil tanker Ohio, towed home with critically needed supplies having been abandoned twice and with a German bomber crashed on its deck.

By European standards Malta is not expensive and the restaurants are excellent with good, friendly service and lots of fresh seafood such as sea bass and lampuki, the latter caught by fishermen who place palm fronds on the water. When lampuki stop under the fronds for shade they are netted.

Around the world with David Wishart

Saturday, January 15, 2005

Single transferable nonsense

Canadian writer Norman Spector, is the author of Chronicle of a war foretold. He takes the Malta example to argue against the introduction of the single transferable vote in British Columbia. From his piece in the Globe and Mail:

The proposal that British Columbia adopt the single transferable vote (STV) in provincial elections is such a dumb idea, one hardly knows where to begin. Have I mentioned that STV supporters are asking us to try on for size the voting system used by only one of the Commonwealth's 53 countries? Now, it's possible that 400,000 Maltese know something the other 1.8 billion inheritors of British political traditions haven't yet grasped, but I wonder.

Proponents of this Rube Goldberg voting system say it's as simple as 1-2-3, but they're unable to explain how STV would work in practice. And, though they argue that transferring the transferable part of the ballot would reduce B.C.'s polarization, Malta's politics have historically been infamously polarized. STV advocates contend that only one country uses the system because it transfers power from politicians and parties to the people. I smell other interests at play.

This article came via the weblog of Ginna Dowler, a Canadian project manager.

Setting up the drum kit

Gordon, a graphic designer from Fgura, wants to study jazz music abroad. He is currently reading 'Rajt Malta Tinbidel' a four volume history of Malta which is being translated into English by the former Minister of Culture Michael Refalo ( and just appointed Malta representative in London). He thinks that we need more female musicians in Malta:

Friday night we stayed at fran's house playing jenga we laughed sooo bloody much... Saturday morning i woke up early cause i had to preper my things to go and set up for the drums workshop i organized at St Aloysius...I had to go to Marsa and get my drum kit and take it there with me... Loads of people came to the workshop, there was about 40 - 50 people, students where so interested showing them independance techniques and stuff like these, i have some others new students too now and finaly another girl....we need more girl musicians in this Island!!!!!. Saturday night i went for a coffee with Francesca, Melanie and Roscoe...Fran had to study late so i picked her up at 10 and we all went to country style it was haq unna freezing outside and as usual i forgot my jacket!!! brrrrrrrrrrr...bdw my crazy uncle came from uk madonna! tiga beda jqazez l-alla biex xorb! he drinks so muuuuuuuuch!!!!Saturday night i slept at fran's house PUWI the cat came to sleep near me as usual hehehe in the morning we had to go to buy Fran's mother birthday present cause as usual I forgot and we went to Piscopo garden and i bought her this lovely oriental plant. I Bought some cactus too as I adore them so much. Yesterday night fran was working night shift so i decided to come here at work and stay working fro a while and after i went home a stayed reading till 2am...I'm reading rajt malta tinbdel by herbert ganado very good piece of history...4 volumes I just started the 3rd i heard that someone translated it in english :)

My century - Rajt Malta tinbidel, in English

Investigating migrant assaults

The Government had ridiculed repeated calls for a National Conference on illegal immigration made by the head of the opposition party back in October. The MLP had suggested that such a conference should be organised with a view to establish a national immigration policy, a subject neglected for far too long by the Government. The idea gained ground, and by December the Government had given in to the pressure and announced that a policy document would after all be approved at a specially convened national conference. True to character, no acknowledgemnt was made to the source of the proposal. The success of such an initiative requires the full participation of the voluntary sector and needs to stay detached from partisan interests. The aggression by members of the armed forces this week demonstrates the urgency for national policies and initiatives. Following a call by Amnesty International, the Maltese authorities have launched an investigation into reports that the armed forces physically assaulted numerous asylum-seekers and unauthorized migrants resulting in many injuries. From the Amnesty statement:

According to the reports received by Amnesty International, on the morning of 13 January 2005, over 90 inmates of a detention facility for aliens at Safi army barracks conducted a peaceful protest, refusing to re-enter the centre at the end of an exercise period. The inmates, some of whom had apparently been detained for over 18 months, were protesting about the length of their detention; lack of information about the progress of their applications for refugee status or humanitarian protection and, in the case of those whose applications for asylum had already been rejected, lack of information concerning their future.

Full Amnesty International statement with background note

Immanuel Mifsud says Malta denies certain basic rights

Toni Sant wonders how this news will be received in Brussels

Amnesty International Malta Section - Annual report (pdf file)

Immigration woes - Minister Tonio Borg interviewed by Washington Times

A day in the life

A writer who works as a secretary keeps her daily diary on a new blog with a view to adding value to her life. Today's routine was interrupted by a call for help from a friend who broke her arm. She has just quit smoking and is positive that things happen for a reason:

Although Malta is not that big, the traffic jams are enormous and L lives in another town about twenty minutes away. So twenty minutes away + about fifteen minutes in traffic jam = a very destroyed, angry looking, fearless she-gender ready to pounce on every individual who tries to:
a) cross the street five paces away from zebra crossing
b) exists from a side street and trying to insert himself/herself in your line and in front of you, if you please!
whilst blocking the other side as well *ggggrrrrrrrr*...
c) take the morning very calmly as if he is driving on a sunday afternoon! (these are the over 55's old male!)
When I arrived at L's flat I found her nearly out of her wits. She had fallen from the stairs and was thinking that she had broken her arm. Tried my best to rush her to hospital and quieten her fears, but L was quite out of control. So I did the next sensible thing and gave her rescue remedy! For the time being she seemed ok...

Index of economic freedom

Michael Manske's Slovenia based weblog Glory of Carniola links to a variety of European sources and blogs. In a post from last year Michael assesses the results of the 2004 Index of Economic Freedom which measures a country's economic freedom based on a number of factors like trade and monetary policy, government intervention in the economy, and property rights. It's published by The Wall Street Journal and the think tank The Heritage Foundation, with the emphasis being on free enterprise and limited government.

Michael Manske compares the results obtained by the new member states of the European Union including Malta.

From the Malta 2004 Index of Economic Freedom Report:

However, given the prevailing political and economic culture, further privatization of government-owned assets can be expected to prove politically difficult, as protectionism has been an essential component of the government’s policy. Malta’s trade policy score is 1 point worse this year, and its fiscal burden of government score is 0.5 point worse; however, its government intervention, banking and finance, wages and prices, and informal market scores are 1 point better. As a result, Malta’s overall score is 0.25 point better this year.

Friday, January 14, 2005

Blogging European Commissioner

The European Union's Communications Commissioner Margot Wallström has set up a weblog with a view to reach people not normally reached by 'Brussels'. As one of the editors of the Eurobarometer surveys published by her office, I am glad that Mrs Wallstrom is the first Commissioner to take up blogging. Honor Mahoney writes for euobserver:

Mrs Wallström has discovered blogging - the keeping of an online diary. From Friday (14 January) onwards, the Swedish Commissioner's thoughts will be aired for all to see. The online journal is to be updated two to three times a week and will contain some personal thoughts but don't expect any revealing political secrets or any dirt dished on other Commissioners. The closest she gets, in her first entry for the blog, is to remark of former Commissioner Chris Patten that he used to say that two things are not necessary in life -eating cod and listening to Fado. Jean-Claude Juncker is described as the "chain-smoking colourful" prime minister of Luxembourg.

She does admit that the much-heralded transparent councils, where EU ministers do their work in the open, just mean that everyone now meets instead for really long lunches to do any deals. So all commissioners are likely to put on weight, she suggests. Anyone following the Commissioner's blog can write in their thoughts, which will then be posted on the site. The blog is supposed to reach people that 'Brussels' does not normally reach. A Commission official said "it's a novel and effective way of communicating to people in normal language".

The Commissioner is just one in a long line of people who have taken to blogging. It first started around the mid-1990s with people writing their thoughts and daily routines on line - blog is short for weblog. Blogging is now much more mainstream with millions of blogs on the web. Bloggers played a huge role during the recent tsunami disaster with eyewitnesses able to provide detailed accounts before journalists got to the scene. Similarly, during the US election campaign, both the Republicans and the Democrats used blogs to get their message to grassroots supporters; and to find out what their grassroots supporters thought of them. But although several politicians have blogs, often they are written by harassed press officers. Mrs Wallström, however, is to write all of her own.

Read Margot Wallstrom's weblog here - the interactive functions of the blog are still under construction.

Margot Wallstrom visited Malta as Environment Commissioner during Malta's EU membership negotiations - by David Pace for Malta Today

Thomas Pynchon: An American Dante?

During the International Pynchon Conference, held in Malta last June, Charles Hollander presented this article which discusses Dante Alighieri's influence on Thomas Pynchon. Pynchon is regarded as the premier post-modern writer:

Edward Mendelson, in his seminal work, “Encyclopedic Narrative: From Dante To Pynchon,” (1976) points out how both Dante and Pynchon authored works with similar characteristics, what he termed the “encyclopedic narrative,” often works that defined their national literatures. He identifies other authors of encyclopedic narratives as Rabelais, Cervantes, Goethe, Melville, and Joyce, implying that Pynchon deserves to be in their company.

Monika Fludernik, at the end of her arresting study, "Hänsel und Gretel, and Dante: The Coordinates of Hope in Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow,” (1989) adds: “It will be clear from the above that I emphatically endorse a religious reading of Gravity’s Rainbow.”

I agree with each of them as far as they go, but I, in my hubris, would ask; “To what end does Pynchon employ the Encyclopedic Narrative form, and the hope of salvation?” Paraphrasing Orwell’s title, “Why I Write;” I’d ask: Why does Pynchon write? Why does he write as he does?
I propose a series of hypotheses here and spend the rest of this essay in an attempt to justify my conclusion: from his undergraduate days, Pynchon saw Dante as his literary ancestor.

Weblog dedicated to the works of Thomas Pynchon

Thomas Pynchon Links

Pynchon's first novel "V" is about a search for a mysterious woman that from New York leads to Malta - from

Happy memories, wishful thinking

Maloy from the Phillipines writes about the therapeutic attributes of her Maltese memories:

I long for intelligent conversation. I love to discuss things with a person who shares my knowledge and interest. I only got to experience that once in my life with Dr Rene Randon of Malta he was 65 yrs old at that time. I imagined myself in love :) He speaks English, Italian, French and a little bit of Spanish, aside of course his native tongue, Maltese.His collection of books is quite extensive. It was like heaven for me, just perusing his collection. He lives in a centuries old house. It was beautiful. His wife, who is American is charming and generous. I love them both.

I had the time of my life in Malta. That is were I met my best friend Marina who is Russian, sweet Sylvia who is Swiss German, deceptively innocent looking Swede, Karolina :), Cool Dude Markus also a Swiss German, Charming Okan who is actually Turkish in lineage but holds a Swiss passport, Swedish covergirl Marie who cried buckets when it was time to go home and of course the best thing that ever happened to me, my Italian love, Michele. :P The best I ever had and who totally knows how to take care of me. Did I already say that he was Delish? Yum! :P

I felt privileged living and experiencing what Malta has to offer. I met the best people there. I wouldn't mind going back. Just a departure of the usual gloom that I have been writing about these past days. A therapy of some sort for me. Just looking back at the most memorable and happiest moment of my life might do the trick.

Maltese double-cross

This article published 3/10/2003 by The Telegraph (London) is an assessment of the tight decision taken by the Maltese public favouring entry into the European Union. It draws parallels with the debate in the UK about EU membership. The full text:

It is extraordinary, in the circumstances, that any Maltese should have been against EU membership, let alone nearly half of those who voted. With eight other enlargement referendums due between March 30 (Slovenia) and September 20 (Latvia), Brussels was determined to secure a "yes" vote. The European Commission spent 700,000 euros directly on the campaign - the equivalent, in population terms, of pounds 70 million in Britain, more than twice the total spent by all our political parties at the last election.

Even this colossal sum, however, was dwarfed by the money channelled indirectly to Malta through pro-EU front organisations. As if this were not enough, the press, the business community and virtually every non-governmental organisation lined up on the "yes" side. And while the Nationalist Government threw everything it had into the campaign, the Labour opposition hung back, now calling for a boycott, now urging voters to spoil their ballots.
The debate was, in fact, eerily reminiscent of our own Common Market referendum - not least because most voters saw the EU simply as a free trade area.

In consequence, the "noes" struggled to break out of their base on the old Left. When anti-EU campaigners, including the 87-year-old Dom Mintoff, warned about the threat to democracy, they sounded alarmist - much as Tony Benn did in 1975. As in 1970s Britain, most young and liberal-minded people were drawn to the "yes" camp, believing that they were simply voting for international co-operation.

How, then, are we to explain the narrowness of the result? The political elites who constitute the core of the pro-European Union movement put it down to prejudice and ignorance. Yet that argument has a flip-side. Perhaps ordinary voters perceive that EU membership, although beneficial to the pays legal, might be deleterious to the country as a whole.

The rulers of the 10 applicant states stand to gain immensely from joining. Five lucky Maltese will sit in the European Parliament, earning six times as much as their prime minister. An Estonian newspaper has calculated that a civil servant moving from Tallinn to Brussels at the same rank will increase his salary by 22 times. Politicians and diplomats from the applicant states, desperate to get in, have negotiated remarkably poor terms for their countries. In the aspirant, as in the existing, members, a rift is opening up between elites and people - one that can only widen once they join.

Networking in the Mediterranean

In the nineties I was involved in a number of international youth organisations dealing with development and global co-operation issues such as matters related to the United Nations and the Mediterranean. Among the most satisfying moments was my election to the leadership bureau of the Brussels based platform the European Youth Forum. That was achieved with the help of a number of close friends including Malta based Giovanni Buttigieg. Giovanni is today doing an excellent job directing the Euro Med Youth Platform. Launched in September 2003, it promotes tolerance, understanding and active networks amongst young people from the Mediterranean region. This is done via numerous exchanges, seminars and activities that encourage youth leadership and development. A profile from the platform's website:

We provide networking services for youth initiatives in the region by assisting in the search for partners, facilitating the creation of networks of youth groups that have similar objectives, publishing a magazine in 3 languages, organising meetings, providing an on-line FORUM for discussion, researching the situation of young people in each country, and distributing information about the Euro-Med Youth Programme.

Our objectives are the nurturing of democracy and its established instruments, and fostering mutual understanding as well as improvement in the issues of racism, gender equality and minority rights.The Commission of the European Union and the Government of Malta are the main financial contributors to the Platform. A Steering Committee composed of the Director of the Platform, representatives from the Youth Unit, AIDCO and DG RELEX within the Commission of the European Communities, SALTO Euro-Med, and the European Youth Forum overlooks the general progress of the Platform.

Together with the Euro-Med Youth Programme, the Platform is an instrument being developed within the framework of co-operation in the youth sector between thirty-five countries, parties to the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership Agreement (Barcelona Declaration).

Malta's Eyes - from Cafe Babel

Forum discussions

Life in Malta

A North American international relations student blogs about life at the Malta University residence in Lija. She is back from a Christmas break in Canada in time for exams. From a long and entertaining post about life in Malta:

Went out to Paceville. It's a town devoted to youth night life! I've never seen so many people in the streets in my life...seriously there were thousands. Then in the bars it was packed to but no line ups :D You can have open liquor almost anywhere and they sell beer (CISK is the Malta beer. Taste like Keiths) in corner stores etc. We go there over the weekends.

There are so many Bulgarians here. I hang out alot with the guys downstairs. Daniel, Emiliano, (Americans) Chris, Brad (Canadians) and Pavel (says it Paviao) (Bulgarian) all living in the same flat. They are alot of fun! There is also a girl from Austrailia...Leila she is amazing!

The drivers are crazy. They don't use signals they veer in between cars and lanes. It's crazy. And walking across the street forget it! You'll lose you life. Serious. You have to look about six times before you cross and then run like you're on fire! If you hear a horn a car is really close to you and if you don't move you are going to get hit! On Sundays literally everything closes down. Can't even go out to a restaurant until, well around 4 some stuff opens including the bars in Paceville.

All the buses cost 15-20 cents and they are decorated with church stuff. The funniest part is that they also have like playboy stuff next to like the virgin mary. Apparently the bus drivers think its funny! It's such a bazaar culture but its so cool. Then, the bus system is really good because it runs all the time but if you're in a hurry forget it! The bus driver could have a full bus and I mean loaded with people sitting and standing and he'll decide he needs a coffee or a smoke and just pull the bus over and have a break. Its soo freakin funny! If ya wanna live in Malta you just gotta let it ride!

Thursday, January 13, 2005

New Year's Eve in Libya

Highlander is not the typical blogger. She is Arabic, based in Tripoli and has been blogging since just before the lifting of the United Nations sanctions on Libya back in 2003 - I know of only one other Libyan blogger who is based in California. Highlander who is well travelled and has also visited Malta, includes useful historical material and photos in her posts. Apart from representing a personal journey, her weblog helps to erase a number of foreign misconceptions about Libya. This is how her family spent New Year's eve in Tripoli, geographically speaking, the closest capital city to Malta:

So we had a beautiful thunderstorm. The lightning struck the electricity pole and of course no more electricity or light etc… which means no more TV, but also no more heating and no more water since our water supply in the house depends on the automatic pump system. When the heaters are off, the temperature in our houses drops at an alarming rate ( house are not really built to cope with extreme cold). So we’re there freezing (it’s -5 degrees outside) in the dark, listening to the sound of thunder ‘explosions’ outside.

Nice scenario eh? But that was not all, we had to put up with the howling wind with a gale force of I don’ know how much , but which was frightening enough to have put in my cousin’s head ( who was staying over at our house that night) the grim notion that a tsunami is coming to the Tripoli shores as well ( we live a 100 metres from the beach). She actually suggested that we go sleep on the roof ?!? what in this cold ? no way, let the tsunami come …

The passage of TIME

How times change! This is how TIME magazine May, 1987 reported the result of the 1987 general election in Malta. At the time a wall in Berlin was still dividing Germany and Europe was split between east and west. Although elections in Malta last year for the European Parliament and local government were both won by the Labour Party, 2005 represents the 18th year of Nationalist rule since that historic election. The new PrimeMinister in 1987 is now in his first year as President of the Republic:

Turning back to the west

Malta lies in the Mediterranean halfway between Western Europe and Libya, and its politics reflects its geography. Since Malta gained independence from Britain in 1964, elections have been decided between the pro-Western Nationalist Party and the Labor Party, which favors close ties to Libya and the East bloc. Now, after 16 years of Labor rule, Maltese voters have elected a Nationalist government.

Once a port of call for NATO warships, Malta under Labor increasingly turned to the Soviet Union, North Korea and Libya for economic and military aid. So close were security ties with Libyan Strongman Muammar Gaddafi that Maltese officials tried to warn Tripoli minutes before last year's U.S. air raid on Libya.

The new Prime Minister, Eddie Fenech Adami, has pledged to abide by the constitution's neutrality clause, but he says, ''This country's place is in Western Europe.''

COPYRIGHT 1987 Time, Inc.

Malta in the TIME archive

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

A work in progress

Toni Sant's review of Maltese blogs helps to widen interest in the subject. It has apparently also triggered the re-awakening of Malta, 9 Thermidor (thermidor from the name of the 11th month of the French Revolution) whose anonymous creator once stated that the Maltese blogosphere is a desolate, barren place. In an entry posted last October Fausto Majistral discussed the problems of running a Maltese political blog connecting this with the poor online services of domestic papers. In yesterday's post, apart from making kind comments about Wired Temples, he raised the issue of the controversial introduction of the UK's Freedom of Information law. From yesterday's Malta, 9 Thermidor:

Hmm, I must have pronounced the Maltese blogosphere dead prematurely. Toni Sant made an update of a previous round-up. Hell, even I get a mention, having almost completely abandoned the enterprise owing to Christmas holidays, seasonal family committments and the like.

Nice to see there's Robert Micallef running a blog called Wired Temples.... Micallef's must be the most political blog in Toni Sant's list. The others occasionally make a comment (usually lame of the "what-a-wonderful-place-Malta-would-be-if-its-politics-were-different" type). Sadly Micallef is also prone to an occasional "Balzanism" -- the belief that Europeans do it better. True, they often do. But as I have often shown in this blog they do not do it that much better.

Here's an example: Micallef refers to the fact that the UK, a country with a long tradition of government secrecy, now also has a Freedom of Information Act. Germany will follow suit leaving only Malta, Cyprus and Luxembourg as the only EU countries without such an Act. Fair enough. But couldn't one have mentioned at least that in the UK it was claimed that paper shredders in Whitehall were working overtime just before the Act came into force?

Karin u Raymond

Oliver Friggieri poetry inspired by two political murders which had a major impact on Malta's recent past. From MaltaGirl's Diverse ramblings who also translates into English:

Maltese poet Oliver Friggieri wrote a poem called "Karin u Raymond" (Karin and Raymond) and I remember it because it was one of the poems in the poetry book Qawsalla which I had to study for my Maltese O-Level. While I didn't particularly enjoy studying Maltese poetry (especially since I didn't understand half the words) I remember this one because our teacher explained the history behind it. In it Friggieri is speaking as though Karin and Raymond were offering their perspective (and that their deaths in a sense "married" them), and I think that the last stanza is a good one to bear in mind -

Hemm kmandament li tnissel miz-zwieg taghna
biex dawn id-dmija mxerrda ma jinhlewx,
ktibnieh bid-demm, tghallmuh w ghallmuh 'l uliedkom;
il-kmandament ta' ghada: "La tinsewx".

There is a commandment that has come out of our marriages
o that this shed blood will not be wasted,
we wrote it in blood, learn it and teach it to your children;
tomorrow's commandment: "Do not forget".

Oliver Friggieri - a profile

Explore the past Live the present

From Liverpool's Daily Post last Saturday:

In Malta you'll find an amazing cocktail of UK, Italian and Arabian cultures. You can explore 7000 years of history yet live passionately in the present. You'll span the millennia with an astonishing array of things to discover. And wherever you go, the island's scenery and architecture provide a spectacular backdrop. The colours are striking. Honey coloured stones sit alongside the deepest of Mediterranean blues.

Described as one big open-air museum, what makes Malta unique is that so much of the past is visible today. You can delve into the islands' mysterious history, retrace the footsteps of St Paul or see where the Knights of St John defended Christen-dom. Malta is no regular museum though, it is the new place to be seen in 2004 after receiving an injection of Hollywood glamour. You can visit the Golden Bay and Ghajn Tuffieha beaches, used as location for the hit movie Troy, starring Brad Pitt, or go off the beaten track into the ancient villages. Marvel at the fireworks and revelry of the summertime festivals.

Between the months of May and October every parish celebrates its Saints' Day with a grand "festa''. Parish churches are decorated with flowers and expensive embellishments. Thousands of light bulbs are used in the churches and to line the streets while a procession lead by a hand carried statue of the parish saint, followed by the local band, march through villages. This is the Maltese way of life at its most religious, yet the atmosphere is one of merriment. A truly awe inspiring spectacle, well worth seeing.

Maltese cuisine is basically British and continental with a strong Sicilian influence, meaning bangers and mash are not too hard to find. However, the Maltese do have some of there own delicious specialities that are worth trying. Timpana (macaroni in a pastry case), ross il-forn (baked rice in a bolognese sauce) and hut biz-Zalza (local fish cooked withGozo's citadel in Malta capers and tomato sauce) are popular choices.

From dancing the night away in lively clubs to dining al fresco on romantic courtyards, you'll find something to do to suit all moods. Malta offers a vibrant calendar of educational theatre performances and concerts, many of which are held outdoors, in historic venues or at the floodlit Grand Harbour. As well as this cultural aspect, Malta is fast becoming a place for clubbing. Top international DJs have made guest appearances this year with the resorts of Paceville and St Julian's playing host.

The capital Valletta is easily explored on foot although by horse and carriage is a far more enjoyable option. Renting a car is also a good idea. The best way to get a good look at this breathtaking island is by sea. Set sail from Valletta passing the impressive fortifications that line the Grand Harbour. Head south enjoying unimpaired views of the quaint fishing villages of Marsascala and Marsaxlokk where you can catch a glimpse of the colourful fishing boasts moored in the bay. Further south admire the pristine waters of the Blue Grotto caves, in sharp contrast to that the imposing Dingli Cliffs and not forgetting yet another important landmark, "Popeye Village'' in the picturesque Anchor Bay. If your sea legs tend to let you down, organised tours of the islands famous landmarks are easy to come by. Be sure to see the magnificent Mosta Dome Church, the handicrafts village of Ta Qali, the old medieval capital of Mdina and "the city built by gentlemen for gentlemen'', Valletta.

dejjem ikun imbierek Morrissey!

Il Bollettino della Sfiga is an entertaining blog for those who have enough patience to spend time trying to decipher a personalized Maltese language text specifically developed for this site. It is a - "kalepin ta' l-uzanzi ta' sehbitna id-dea bendata u ta' l-antitezi taghha. Mitbugh geuua L-Ondra La Valletta u Le-Tzeburgu - Mibdi fuq ix-xibka internazzjonali f'awwissu 2004 "- if you know what I mean! Having had a tiring busy day in which I also blogged at regular intervals, I was'nt going to spend much time on it until I noticed what looked like a reference to Morrissey. Upon closer inspection I discovered that yes the reference was to 'our favourite son' Moz, the Los Angeles based singer from Manchester who has just been nominated for a Brit award. Apparently, Gakbu went to see Morrissey at the Zenith in Paris:

Marcovalden unt Morriizey

MoienNota kasira duar il cuncert ta' lbierah ta' Morriizey (deiiemicunimbierec) fiz-Zenith, Parigi.Id-Donna Bendata dahcitilna bi snienha kolha. Minn sitt ixtiebi minn fejn setaw jithlu n-nies, ta' min jifthu l-euuel? Ta' Marcovalden u Tonellaaxisa.Prima fila ghal darb ohra, goduria eccelsi. Mill-bkija, spettakolu spettakolari, spettakolanti u spettakoluz.Adi.Marcovalden

Malta's first Commissioner in Brussels according to Gakbu

Immanuel Mifsud

Immanuel Mifsud, a good friend and former classmate at St Paul's Missionary College in Rabat, is today a leading writer and theatre director. When he is not teaching at the University of Malta's junior college, Immanuel keeps this weblog. In recent posts he wrote about his fears of dying and flying; his discussions with European intellectuals and his allergy to the corridors of power. He is also angry at the way the Maltese authorities have replaced plans to rebuild the opera house in Valletta with a new house for Malta's Parliament - which everybody opposes including most parliamentarians - such is the nature of this Government!:

The Millennium Project - as the opening of the Creativity Centre was tagged -
was intended to include the building of the new opera house instead of the one
demolished by enemy aircraft. There was no agreement, however, as to whether the
opera house had to have the original design or something new. What is important
at this stage is that the site was destined to have a new opera house built on
it. Then all was forgotten. For a number of years. Until yesterday!

Yesterday morning, The Times (of Malta) reported that while having a business breakfast, Jesmond Mugliett (formerly Minister of Culture, now minister of Urban Development), announced that this site will not, after all, be destined to have a new theatre constructed on, but ... you won't believe this ... a new parliament! The honourable reasoning of the honourable minister follows these lines: theatres cost more than parliaments. Ah yes, this is a poor country - now - and it can't afford to erect a new theatre.

So, in the second world war, it was the Luftwaffe which ruined our theatre, in the new century it was the Government. For a second time the opera house was demolished. It's almost understandable that the Luftwaffe would throw bombs to demolish the country, after all we were at war with them. But to have a minister of your own government, and to top it all an ex-minister of CULTURE, declare war on the country's arts, is ... what shall I call this?

Tgedwid - Immanuel Mifsud in Maltese

German financial aid for the opera house?

An international special report about Valletta

Down to earth

Simple as ABC is a new blog run by a true socialist involved with the media ready to expose the big boys. He is a well travelled down to earth bloke and a true believer in 'the little person – the guy on the shop floor on the lower step of the long, long ladder'. His view is that petty political quarrels obstruct development opportunities for the Maltese people:

The Maltese have been bickering and scratching each other's eyes out over politics for generations! Which is fine at grass-roots level - but when it comes to the business end of Maltese life, that's a different story. That's where opportunities are eroded and the final product from a creative point of view is wrecked because the guys with the purse-strings are wriddled with political cancer. And, much to my deep personal regret, that's where the ordinary Joey in the street really suffers and suffers badly.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Value for money

In his monthly long essay for the Malta Independent, the head of the parliamentary opposition Alfred Sant questions the conventional views about Government 'interference' and suggests that politics can in fact be a catalyst for better management of Malta's public affairs. It deserves wider viewing:

The pool of talented people available to the government comes from only a half of the political spectrum. People believed to favour the other half are shunted aside, no matter how able they might be. To compound the problem, discrimination also prevails within the ruling party. Some people are excluded not because they are perceived as having a pro-Labour orientation, but because they are perceived as having a personal allegiance to this or that politico.

Political patronage generates unforeseen blockages in public decision-making. Little to no questioning of decisions and strategies takes place. New ways by which to achieve results are glossed over, at best. The people who should be making things shake and move are too bound by ties of friendship, tactical allegiance and political orthodoxy. They cannot go beyond policies that mean more of the same.

People ask: is there a way out? Yes, there is. We will need to turn upside-down certain assumptions that are usually considered to be self-evident. For instance, the claim that political “interference” in how the government runs must be curtailed needs to be revisited. It seems to me that politics can best be useful in our situation if it serves as a catalyst and coordinator of the top managerial roles within the public system. Is this just a paradox? Can it be done?

Read the full essay here.

Philobiblion - Dictionary of received ideas

Wired Temples has been included in the blogroll (favourite links) of Philobiblion a weblog belonging to London journalist and UN consultant Natalie Bennett. Natalie is a regular contributor to the Dictionary of Received Ideas which is full of history links from blogosphere. Philobiblion is about history (particularly women's history), current affairs and culture with the occasional rant! From a recent Philobiblion post:

On the subject of links, I've put up two posts on the Dictionary of Received Ideas, on a wonderful historical dictionary (in French), and on Japanese folktales, Otogi Zoshi. Finally, on a light note, the Sunday Times takes an entirely one-eyed look at the comparatively lower marriage rates of women with high IQs. It seems not to have even crossed their mind that women with higher IQs might make more independent decisions: being trapped in an institution (at least theoretically) for life didn't appeal to many of them. (Thanks to Brutal Women.)

Maltese u-turn on bag tax terms

A report on Newsline from

The Maltese Government has changed its Eco-Contribution Act just a week after it came into force, meaning that plastics bags are now charged per item instead of per kilo. Retailers and manufacturers were enraged by the eco-tax, which came into force on January 1, because it placed an Lm10.67 (US$32) per kilo premium on plastics bags and Lm5 ($15) per kilo on degradable bags. This has been changed to 6 cents (US$0.18) per plastics bag and 1 cent ($0.03) per degradable bag.

Although seemingly favourable to the degradable bag, these bags are in fact heavier than normal plastics ones, meaning that a single degradable bag would have been taxed at 17 cents ($0.50) and cost the consumer 21 cents ($0.63). Biodegradable bags remain untaxed, leading one company, Traplas, to start looking into the production of them.

Plastics in Packaging is an innovative international news magazine and daily updated news service for the plastics and packaging industries.

Investigating sexual abuse

Jerry Filteau of the Catholic News Service reports on sexual abuse claims reviewed by the Maltese promoter of justice at the Vatican:

A previously dormant case against Legionaries of Christ founder Father Marcial Maciel Degollado could be reopened at the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, a Vatican lawyer said in a letter to three former Legionaries who accuse the priest of molesting them when they were minors.

"It seems to me that now the case is being taken seriously," Martha Wegan said in a letter to the men who made the accusations. Wegan is a staff attorney for the Holy See who specializes in cases involving church law. Catholic News Service obtained a copy of her letter after Gerald Renner, who broke the original story of the accusations in the United States in 1997, reported on the possible reopening of the case Jan. 3 in The Hartford (Conn.) Courant.

In her Italian-language letter, dated Dec. 2, Wegan wrote that for the first time the doctrinal congregation now has a permanent promoter of justice -- roughly the equivalent of a prosecutor in the church court system -- instead of temporary appointees named for individual cases. Msgr. Charles J. Scicluna, a priest from Malta, was appointed to that post in October 2002. Msgr. Scicluna "telephoned me asking if you ... want to pursue the suit or not," Wegan wrote. "I said that I don't have much contact with you, but I can ask, though I am convinced that you want to go ahead."

This story has also caught the attention of Brent Anderson, a teacher who blogs from Lakes Region, New Hampshire.

Divorce and abortion - a foreign perspective

Jim, a designer from Virginia looks at the recent survey on divorce and abortion in Malta. He is saddened by the selfishness of men:

In a place where abortion (and divorce) is illegal, it's not too surprising that the poll estimates that 95.3% oppose abortion in most cases. Here's the news from Malta. I am, however, saddened that men can be so selfish:

It is significant that in all three cases, males were more numerous than females among favouring abortion: rape: 19.3% vs.16%; incest: 10.7% vs. 7.3%; seriously defective baby: 12% vs. 6%".

Public opinion survey on divorce and abortion by Mario Vassallo

Chile was the third-last country in the world to gain divorce in 2004. Only Malta and the Philippines are now left without a divorce law.

A Canadian perspective on Malta's anti-abortion majority

The doughty navigator

For Los Angeles based Navigator, travel has always been about treks of self-discovery. He puts the art of travelling into context:

I've never been a fan of traveling for the sake of traveling. Sure, there's an appeal for just seeing the exotic and waking every day to a radically novel environment to immerse yourself in. But I've never understood how that could be sustained for a year or 18 months, as New Zealanders and Australians often do, or even for three months as many Americans do. Traveling for the sake of seeing something purely novel can be enormously valuable, but it's about as logical as going to see a movie simply because the movie has been made and you haven't seen it yet and someone says it's a pretty, shiny thing. This time around, I'll only be traveling in places that hold significance for me.

For instance, Malta: packed with history; Neolitic tombs, Jewish and Christian catacombs, a Crusader heritage, prominent role in WWII. That's all context I can appreciate. It's not about just seeing Malta. It's about putting place to the idea of the Knights of Malta.

Monday, January 10, 2005

Wired Temples on the Web

The discussion programme on Super 1 TV in which I was a guest with Peter Serracino Inglott was broadcast again yesterday. We debated a number of issues related to the future of Europe and the role of religion in public life. For a background read here.

A post on this weblog about freedom of information has, I suspect, triggered an article on yesterday's Malta Independent on Sunday. The article states that freedom of information law is non-existent in Malta. With Germany expected to pass a similar law mid 2005 ( not last December as reported by the Independent) Malta, Cyprus and Luxembourg will be the only European Union countries without such measures against government secrecy (small = secretive?)

I have recieved favourable comments about the piece written by Toni Sant in his blog. In his latest blog survey he described 'Wired Temples' as the most active of all Maltese blogs. I blogged about this yesterday.

From an international perspective one blog on which I am a regular visitor Gindy.blogspot is based in California and deals primarily with political, economic and religous affairs. It also runs an interesting blog that critically monitors the activities of the United Nations. 'Wired Temples' has been added to Gindy's blogroll which is quite flattering considering that it includes some high profile and influential weblogs such as National Review Online; Michelle Malkin, Tim Blair, and the Heritage Foundation policy blog.

Saving Malta

Operation Pedestal to relieve British-controlled Malta took place in August 1942:

The epic attempt to run some 80 ships past bombers, minefields and u-boats has gone down in military history as one of the most important British victories of the Second World War - though at a cost of more than 400 lives. Malta, then part of the British Empire, was strategically important because it lay in the heart of the Mediterranean. To its north was Italy and to its south the north Africa coast, both controlled by the Axis powers. But at the eastern and western entrances to the sea were the British naval bases of Gibraltar and Alexandria.

Whoever controlled tiny Malta, would almost certainly control the Mediterranean and the outcome of the war in southern Europe. For two years, the Italian forces bombarded Malta, protected by a limited military force. Convoys of supplies were picked off one by one as they approached. One of the worst single losses came on 13 November 1941 when the Ark Royal, a modern aircraft carrier, was torpedoed and sunk.

By the summer of 1942, King George had already awarded Malta the George Cross for the bravery of its civilians. But military planners knew Malta would be forced to surrender if fuel, grain and ammunition did not get through before the end of August.

Read the whole story via BBC news here

Government secrecy

A post in Wired Temples on 30 December reported that Malta, Cyprus and Luxembourg will now be the only European Union member states without a proper freedom of information act once Germany adopts it's own law in the Bundestag. The post included a link to Kevin Aquilina's paper about the Malta situation which was originally published on the website of the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative. This information was also reported today on the Malta Independent on Sunday with an article entitled 'Freedom of Information law non-existent in Malta'. The article quotes substantially from Aquilina's useful paper and states that the German Parliament passed a freedom of information law on December 17. This last piece of information needs to be adjusted since as stated in my previous post only a first draft of the law was discussed during that parliamentary session. The Financial Times 17th Dec reported:

"Traditions of government secrecy in Britain and Germany are heading for the history books as the two countries prepare to grant greater public access to official information. In Berlin today the German parliament will debate draft rules for a freedom of information act which is expected to become law in mid-2005".

The United Kingdom has also been slow in legislating in this area but a much awaited Freedom of Information law is now finally in place. From the website

The Freedom of Information Act (UK) came into force on January 1st 2005. It gives you the right to ask any public body for all the information they have on any subject you choose. And unless there’s a good reason, they have to give it to you within a month. You can also ask for all the personal information they hold on you. If you're in the public sector you'll be under scrutiny as never before. If you're in the private sector your public contracts, and much else, are open to all. You can also unearth valuable intelligence on your competitors and clients.

For those who are interested in campaigning for similar legislation in Malta the following sources are useful:

The freedom of information act in the UK - official website

Question and Answer - Freedom of Information - The Times (London)

An excellent weblog dedicated to freedom of information

Freedom of Information in Malta - a paper by Kevin Aquilina (pdf file)

Malta's feminine mystique

Cathy Lynn Grossman wrote this special feature (available online only against payment) in 1998 for USA Today. It describes Malta's temple heritage from a feminine angle:

Malta's feminine mystique - Ancient fertility goddesses attract more visitors to Mediterranean temples

You'd think a goddess could get a little respect. But here, in the prehistoric homeland of Mediterranean fertility goddesses, the earthy idols are dubbed the Fat Ladies. Huge stone gals with global hips wrapped in chisel-pleated skirts were found in the mysterious temple sites dotting Malta and its sister island Gozo. Nearly 6,000 years ago, people on these sunstruck shores, 60 miles south of Sicily, moved megaliths that created temples -- Western civilization's first signs of sacred architecture -- for rituals never to be named or known again. Buried by nature and neglect, the temples were rediscovered in the 1800s.

Now there's a rise in ''idol'' curiosity. Scholars, intellectually driven travelers, new age explorers, even a handful of goddess tour companies, join European sun-seekers here. The tally of American visitors was just 17,000 last year, up 25% from about 14,000 in 1996. They include divers searching for crystalline waters, and history buffs studying the Knights of Malta or the heroic World War II stories of these strategic, embattled isles. Cruise vacationers sail into Valletta's Grand Harbour and take shore tours. Other visitors concentrate on the rich heritage of art, archaeology and architecture left by a succession of colonizers.

Bronze Age warriors supplanted the Temple People, then came the Phoenicians, Greeks, Carthaginians, Romans, Arabs and the crusading Normans. The Knights of St. John, the medieval order later known as the Knights of Malta, ruled here from the 16th century until Napoleon arrived in 1798. By 1800, Malta was under British rule until independence in 1964.

Christian pilgrims come here tracking the footsteps of St. Paul, shipwrecked on Malta en route to Rome and martyrdom.''There may be 22 ancient temple sites, but there are 370 Roman Catholic churches,'' says Linda Eneix, founder of the OTS Foundation in Sarasota, Fla. The group develops special-interest tours to Malta with experts from the University of Malta and the National Museum of Archaeology. ''Most people who want to explore the goddess sites don't feel quite right about any 'over-the-moon' stuff,'' Eneix says. ''They're not really comfortable with the touchy-feely new age approach. They want a little more authenticity. ''The security guards at Hagar Qim (ha-DGAR-Eem) and its sister temple, Mnajdra (Im-NIGH-dra), a quarter-mile downhill on a south coast cliff, giggle discreetly about goddess groupies who come at dawn on days such as the summer solstice, when the sun shines through the entry passage to the main altar of Mnajdra. Some meditate, mumble and croon. Some sit silent. Others search for mystic stones, perhaps unaware that several of the statues, carved benches and altars are clever replicas. The real Fat Ladies -- the massive statues and the endearing little figurines like the ''Venus of Malta,'' plump as a bologna sausage with pendulous breasts, or the ''Sleeping Lady,'' dreaming on her stone couch like a fat cat -- ply their charms at the tiny National Museum of Archaeology in Valletta.

Still, anyone who devotes a day or two to Malta's pagan past finds ''a magical aura, almost a presence about the temples,'' says Jean Hutchinson, 46, of Charleston, S.C. She visited Malta last March with a group put together by her sister, Ann Waigand, publisher of The Educated Traveler newsletter. ''I like to think it was all very peaceful there when women ruled.''The temples' decorative motifs, chiseled into the soft gray and honey-toned limestone in the temples at Tarxien (TAR-sheen), are dibbled dots and sensuous spirals. The walls curve inward, suggesting once-domed chambers enclosing mysteries. The cloverleaf floor plans suggest the shape of a voluptuous woman. Could it be a fertility goddess for a Neolithic people dependent on the ample gifts of earth and sea? Perhaps.

Maltese guide Mariella Bose wonders if the Temple People were so different. ''In all times people have had love, anger, jealousy and hunger.''Modern humanity reads its own stories into the stones of a pre-narrative society. And the Maltese provide few signs for visitors to tell what little the scholars do know. Only Ggantija (Dg-GANT-ee-a) on Gozo is set up as a landscaped formal archaeological park in the manner that the national authorities someday plan to present other temple sites. One of Malta's most elaborate temples, the Hypogeum (Hy-po-GEE-um), with its underground chambers, is closed to the public while the Maltese try to solve preservation problems at the site. Funds have run out for excavations at other sites such as the Brochtorff Circle on Gozo. The circle, which once yielded a statuette of two Fat Ladies sitting side by side like matrons waiting for a bus, is now in weedy disarray within a homely wire fence behind a house on an unmarked road near Xaghra (SHA-ra).

''When we were kids we played hide-and-seek in places like this,'' Bose says. ''What sites we knew of, the schoolbooks ignored. Today it's different. There is more of an interest. Now my children study Maltese history. ''Gozo, a 20-minute ferry ride across the one-mile channel from Malta, is more agrarian than the densely settled ''big'' island. The entry walk to Ggantija passes farmers' fields so lush and abuzz with hefty honeybees that one wonders if fertility prayers last forever. Archaeologists say Ggantija's stone walls, fitting closely together like jigsaw pieces, have been standing here since 3800 B.C., forming the world's oldest-known free-standing temple. So what happened here -- centuries before Moses, Christ and Buddha -- when, as art historian Veronica Veen writes, ''religiosity revolved around the feminine?''''You have to imagine it yourself,'' Bose says.

Sunday, January 09, 2005

The Ettel travelogue

Mary, Ed, Erin and Allison are based in Atlanta but spend most of their time travelling around the world. They stopped in Malta during a Mediterranean tour in 2003. This is their diary entry for their stay in Malta:

We stopped at Malta, 120 miles from the African coast, where the Knights of Malta defeated the pesky Moors in 1566 and saved Europe from becoming an Islamic state. Megaliths here predate Egyptian pyramids and, like Corfu, Malta has been occupied by every empire since then. The fortifications are amazing, and the St John's Cathedral is 'over the top', with the floor completely covered with inlaid marble tombs of the Knights of Malta. St Paul was shipwrecked in Malta in 60AD, and wrote his letters from here. We visited St Paul's Shipwreck Church before returning to the ship.

Disturbing words by the Times of Malta

An unfortunate choice of words in a Tsunami related Times of Malta headline story. It has caught the attention of popular Australian blogger Chrenkoff:

The outpouring of international solidarity and assistance to the victims of tsunami continues. So does outpouring of words. Strange words. Disturbing words. I've been much castigated by some readers of my previous round-up for deeming a libertarian condemnation of foreign aid a "stupid" quote. I still think that "stupid" is a subjective judgment to which I'm entitled (just as my readers are entitled to disagree with me), but let's ditch the "stupid" tag and just say, here is another collection of strange, unfortunate, or just plain batty statement and opinion from around the world (many thanks to all the readers who suggested links):

In a now notorious case of "foot in the mouth" disease, CNN's Jonathan Klein boasting about his channel's preparedness to cover the disaster said that with producers and correspondents already stationed around the globe, CNN was "able to flood the zone immediately" CNN staff is expected to breeze in the next time a hurricane strikes.

Along the same lines, an unfortunate headline from the "Times of Malta": "Indonesia tsunami victims hunt food, flood hospital"

And speaking of inane headlines, News Ltd discovers a previously unknown South-East Asian country: "Tsunami devastates Dicaprio" The United Nations is currently sending an assessment team to Beverly Hills.

Cars beat churches

In two seperate sets of statistics published this week in Scotland's Daily Record Malta features highly in terms of car ownership per capita but is less successful in relation to church attendance:

Countries with highest car ownership - Number of cars per 1000 people:

1 Lebanon 732
2 New Zealand 578
3 Brunei 576
3 Luxembourg 576
5 Iceland 561
6 Italy 542
7 Germany 516
8 Austria 495
9 Malta 494
10 Switzerland 493

Countries with the highest percentage of churchgoers based on the percentage of the population who attend at least once a week:

1 Nigeria 89%
2 Ireland 84%
3 Philippines 68%
4 South Africa 56%
5 Poland 55%
6 Puerto Rico 52%
7 Portugal 47%
8 Slovakia 47%
9 Mexico 46%
10 Italy 45%

Computer software for active church participation

The effect on car ownership of changes in household size and location

Wired Temples according to Toni Sant

Toni Sant in his latest post surveys the state of Maltese weblogs and writes extensively about Wired Temples describing it as refreshing and ambitous. He says this blog is by far the most active of all Maltese blogs. Thank you Ton for the encouraging words! And let's hope that your prediction about blogging becoming extremely popular with Maltese people in 2005 becomes a reality.

Toni Sant is a former classmate at school and I could'nt help smiling at the way he recalls an incident in his blog going back to when we were both ten years old. Two escape routes from routine classes available to us then were either to run away into the ancient catacombs beneath the school or to be barred from attending school by the strict teacher-priests. Toni reminds me of one instance in which he experienced the latter. It followed a tussle in which we engaged during class hours over something that I have long since forgotten. Our classmate Gattaldo formerly known as Aldo Gatt acted as mediator. The school head believed my version of events so young Toni was found guilty as charged! That incident did'nt do Toni much harm though because he turned out to be one of the most talented and creative artists to emerge from the college.

My friendship with Toni, particularly in later years, was a mind opener and to this day he continues to represent the cutting edge of Maltese media art. I visited him in New York a couple of times and we watched The Last Temptation of Christ together in London when the controversial Martin Scorsese film (with the inspirational Peter Gabriel score) was banned in Malta.

Another former schoolmate of ours at St Paul's Missionary College, prominent writer and theatre director Immanuel Mifsud, currently mourning the family cat, is also a leading member of the Maltese blogging community.

From Toni Sant's blog posted earlier today:

When I started this blog, early last year, there was hardly any regular activity in the blogosphere from and/or about Malta. Five months into the adventure I blogged about the other Maltese blogs I had discovered. Since then a small number of blogs have entered the scene, making blogging something that is now also becoming quite Maltese.

Take in the first instance what is by far the most active blog of all Maltese blogs: Wired Temples. This blog belongs to an old schoolmate of mine; most people know him as one of the 2004 MEP candidates from the Malta Labour Party. Robert Micallef and I went to secondary school together between 1978 and 1983. I have fond memories of him at school because he managed to get me expelled during my first year at St. Paul's Missionary College. Perhaps I'll blog about that some other day.

Robert's blog is a very ambitious blog, but it is quite refreshing to see someone so committed to blogging daily about things that are neither too personal nor of little interest to a larger public. He has even mentioned my blog a couple of times, so indubitably this is what I would classify as a good blog.

Int lil min thobb?

Prudence Hone wrote this Malta commentary for the Guardian in August:

Int lil min thobb? asks the Maltese health service poster, showing a crying baby next to an overflowing ashtray. Malti, a Semitic language that sounds like a gentler, less guttural Turkish, apparently only began to be used for literary purposes in the 17th century, which might explain why it is convoluted and impenetrable to foreigners: it grew wildly, without primers or grammar to confine it.

The assimilated ad-ons from Mediterranean neighbours are easy to spot - bonswa for "good evening", grazzi for "thank you", merhaba for "welcome"; but where does jekk joghgbok (please) come from? Not that this matters to the visitor; most Maltese speak perfect English and often Italian too. But while there isn't a long literary tradition, the culture and civilisation stretch back into prehistory. The Maltese were carving rock chambers and gigantic mother-earth figures when the ancient Britons were probably daubing themselves with woad. The Hypogeum, a World Heritage site, is thought to be about 5,000 years old

The village of Marsaxlokk on the southern coast is still filled with blue and yellow fishing boats, each with a painted "eye of Osiris" on the prow to ward off evil spirits. Even in a devoutly Catholic society, there's no harm in a little extra insurance. Men still sit under awnings, mending their nets. The free port and container terminal, tucked out of sight of the old harbour, has provided a boost to local employment and the economy. Public transport is vital to the island. The yellow buses that circle the Triton fountain terminus in Floriana, below Valetta's honey-coloured stone bastions of St James and St John, range from the moderately comfortable to the cardboard-panelled bizarre. However, they work and they're cheap. They also boast names, painted on to the ceiling above the driver's head. The 27 to Tarxien was called "Norbert".

A short Malta Guide from the Guardian

Prudence Hone spends 48 hours in Singapore

Saturday, January 08, 2005

Tortoise adopts hippo

Kristine Cole from Zabbar, enjoys blogging, being alone and studying psychology. She is also sensitive about the welfare of animals. From Kristine's blog:

This morning the Times of Malta posted a small review that a 120 year old giant tortise adopted a 1 year old hippo. It almost brought tears to my eyes. There was even a small picture of this, and you can see the tortoise and the hippo near each other and looking into each other's eyes. And the human race is always saying that animals do not have enough brains to function like us humans. Is that the case? This is a debate ...which i challenge.

So the world, our world, the world me and you are living in is seeing so many killings and hatred that we stop and ponder ...hmmm. If we have have more brains than animals race does not seem to bother an animal ..then what is the problem that surrounds the human mind?? Sincerely the issue of race, colour, religion and ethnic beliefs bugs me so much these days go onto a bus and because there is a coloured person you can see all the old ladies giving bad looks. One guy even preferred standing a 25 minuite bus journey rather than sitting next to a coloured person ...

And this brings me back to my opening comments friends ...sometimes i wish i was born a hippo or a giant tortoise ..maybe in that existence race is not such an issue.

Animal rights in Malta

Tortoise adopts stray hippo ( named Owen) - Full story

Friday, January 07, 2005

Militant monks

An exhibition at the former Papal military stronghold Castel Sant'Angelo in Rome has earned public praise for the way it deals with what appears in contemporary terms as a paradox. Zenit, an international news agency focusing on Catholic issues, draws attention to the exhibition entitled "Monks at Arms" saying it reminds the public that even the papacy has known times of menace and violence:

This exhibit brings together about 150 artifacts from all over the world pertaining to the religious military orders of the Knights Templar, the Knights of St. John, Jerusalem, Rhodes and Malta, and the Teutonic Knights as well as the Knights of St. Stephen. Most of these orders were formed around the 12th century, during the time of the Crusades.

Next come the Knights of St. John founded in Jerusalem in 1099, now better known as the Knights of Malta, whose exploits brought them to Rhodes and Malta before they established their present headquarters on the Aventine Hill in Rome. As the Knights of Malta are still very active today, both running hospitals and providing relief in emergency situations around the world, artifacts representing numerous phases of their activity are prominently featured in the exhibit.

While the model of a Maltese galley -- the low, fast, oar-powered boat that tormented the Turkish fleet -- commands attention, the most captivating item is the dress armor in steel and gold, worn by Jean de la Vallette, grand master of the order. This hero of the siege of Malta in 1565 personifies the ideal of a monk-knight. His ingenious defense tactics and stalwart honor enabled 600 knights to hold off the Turkish fleet and save Europe from invasion by the Ottomans.

Also worthy of note is the armor of Alof di Wignacourt, a Maltese grand master who was immortalized in a Caravaggio portrait after Wignacourt had conferred a knighthood on the painter. (Film noir fans please note: The exhibit sheds no light on the current whereabouts of "The Maltese Falcon.")

Warrior monks - Samurai warfare

Latest news from Zenit Agency

A six day Malta diary

Andrew from the United Kingdom has recently spent six days in Malta. He kept a diary for each day of his holiday which he has posted online. On day five he toured the central part of Malta:

We had lunch in Rabat. The main attraction (apart from lunch!) was St Paul's Church. This large church was lavishly furnished with altars, paintings - some 12 or 15 feet high. There was an intricate mural on the high ceiling. Below the church was the grotto where Paul supposedly spent three months when he was shipwrecked on Malta on his way to Rome (see the Bible account here). The guide told us of all sorts of other supposed events beyond the Bible account; he just about stopped short of telling us what Paul had for dinner!

The final stop was the Mosta Dome - or rather the large town church on which the dome sits. Once again, the decor was lavish - paintings, plaster work and statues. The church could accommodate 9,000 people. It was hard to find any one photo shot that captured the scale of the place. The church's claim to fame is that three bombs dropped onto it during a service in the time of the Second World War bounced away and did not explode.

Read Andrew's six day Malta diary.

Tsunami scam linked to Kuwaiti bank in Malta

A fraudulent letter by a scam artist posing as a victim of the Tsunami disaster in Asia is currently circulating over the internet. The letter claims to be from a small village in Indonesia but asks recipients to send donations to an account at FIMBANK, a Kuwaiti owned bank based in Malta. The bank in question, of which Bank of Valletta has a 9.5 per cent shareholding, today released a short public statement in which it denied connections to this online appeal. The public should be warned about this kind of fraud that seeks to take advantage of the suffering and death of thousands of people in the Indian ocean tragedy. Similar fraud took place in the wake of the September 2001 tragedy in New York. Joe Wein, a German software development expert based in Japan , has investigated the originating network of the letter and concludes that the IP is statically assigned to an internet service provider in Africa most likely in Nigeria. The letter is mentioned in a report about online scams published by Reuters:

Crudely written appeals for help have begun to appear in e-mail inboxes, asking for donations through a Web site or an offshore bank account, the analysts said. "It's only a matter of time before...we have fully fledged Web sites that spoof well-known charities, for example," said Paul Wood, chief information security analyst at MessageLabs, an Internet security company. Aid organizations have collected millions of dollars through the Internet since a tsunami claimed an estimated 150,000 lives from Indonesia to Africa on Dec. 26. One message provided to Reuters asks for help freeing up a bank account in the Netherlands, a common 419 tactic. Another claims to be from a small village in Indonesia but asks recipients to route donations through a bank account in Malta. "We have been rendered homeless and have lost all we have in life...We will be very grateful if you can assist us with any amount of money to enable us to start a new lease of life," the message says.

Public statement released by FIMBANK

The original letter with details of the letter's originating network

Online scams emerge in tsunami's wake - by Andy Sullivan of Reuters

Frequently Asked Questions about email fraud

Europe's minutes of silence

Millions of people across Europe observed a three-minute silence yesterday in memory of the victims (UN says will exceed 150,000) of the tsunami disaster - people paid their respects in silence in public places homes and offices. But according to the Times, people in Valletta were oblivious to the call and Republic street remained full of activity on the stroke of midday.

However, I don't think this should be taken as a sign of Maltese indifference towards the thousands of casualties in Asia. There is a lot of evidence of Maltese solidarity and generosity in reaction to the global Tsunami appeal for assistance. Several examples were mentioned during a live discussion yesterday on Radio Malta on which I was a guest with journalists Karl Stagno Navarra and Martin Debattista as well as members of parliament David Agius (PN) and Stefan Buontempo (MLP). The programme was meant to review 2004 and make forecasts for 2005 but Tsunami-related issues inevitably dominated parts of the programme.

Older Maltese generations are reminded of Tsunamis in the Central Mediterranean - 200, 000 thousand Sicilian casualties in 1908 - according to Herbert Ganado's 'Rajt Malta Tinbidel' fourteen Maltese medical doctors went on site as volunteers. Three doctors are volunteering this time in Asia but forty civilians say they are prepared to go to Sri Lanka to give their assistance.

From the Guardian's "Europe comes to a standstill":

In Sweden, which is thought to have the highest number of casualties in Europe, one of Stockholm's busiest squares fell silent. A lone dog could be heard barking as cars and pedestrians stopped in their tracks at noon. "One word that most of us had never used gained all the meaning in the world: tsunami. Something has happened that we will never forget. We have lost so many: a dad, a mum, an uncle, our children, a little sister, friends," the Swedish prime minister Goran Persson told the country in a televised address.

German trains in stations halted for one minute and staff stopped work for three minutes. There were similar pauses in airports. In the Netherlands, trains, trams and buses stopped at noon. Luxembourg, which holds the EU's rotating presidency, called on all 25 member states and EU institutions to observe the silence to "show solidarity and mourn the victims of the disaster," a European commission spokesman said.

In Brussels, the European parliament president, Josep Borrell, led a crowd of around 3,000 in observing the silence in the Rond Point Schuman, at the heart of the EU district. French schoolchildren stood at their desks in silent tribute and some Italian shops suspended business around noon.

Pope John Paul joined the day of mourning for the victims, offering prayers for the dead and for the millions struggling to survive. "In Europe, today is dedicated to the numerous victims of the tsunami that has tragically hit south-east Asia," he told hundreds of pilgrims gathered for his weekly audience.

Toni Sant writes in his blog:

What can I really do about what's going on now. Is donating money really enough? Should we feel that we've done our part just because we've donated some cash or whatever. Does that really make things better or does it simply make us feel better about it? Whatever the answer to that question, I believe that things can never be the same again for any of us, however close or far we are from it all.I don't want to come across as a cynical bastard. I'm just being sincere about my thoughts on what's going on around the Indian Ocean as I am bombarded by a media frenzy to capture the aftermath of the catastrophe and the tough circumstances thousands of people have found themselves in.

In reaction, 23 year old new blogger Caska posted this comment:

I agree that not even all the money in the world can make up for even one lost life in SE Asia let alone do something for the shattered lives of all the victims of tsunami. As regards whether donating money is enough or if it simply makes us feel better about about it, I just wanted to say that although I am sure that there were many many people who donated sincerely anything that could help, I deeply loathe the hundreds of people who donated money three or four times spread during the whole programme with the intent of winning something during the Istrina programme ... it's simply disgusting hearing people say "I donated three times and I didn't win anything".

Tsunami Aid Blogs:
Tsunami Help Lines and Emergency Services Blog
Tsunami Missing Persons Blog
Where do donations go?

Managing waste

MaltaGirl studied the management of waste as an engineering student at university. Her diverse ramblings blog discusses the pros and cons of the new ecological tax introduced by the authorities in the context of Malta's waste management policies:

Anyway, I studied waste management last year as part of Environmental Engineering, and I was actually taught by the head of WasteServ, Dr. Chris Ciantar, who has a PhD in it. So I know quite a lot about the reasons/implications etc of waste management (it's actually quite interesting).

Of course as always, there's two sides to the issue: on the Government's side, they want people to cut down on waste. The main reason is that the Government is paying through the nose to process waste (specially plastic) so the fair thing is for the people who actually generate the waste to pay for its processing. That's the real reason for the eco-contribution (as usual it's the money). The secondary reason is to cut down on waste in the first place - this is the first principle of waste management. Less waste means less processing costs, less depletion of resources, and (yay) less environmental damage.

On the other side, the side of the manufacturer/retailer/consumer, no-one likes to have to pay more money for anything. Duh. The taxes have been set based on, it seems, how hard it is to process the waste.This leads to great discrepancies between items, but that's because organic/biodegradable waste is very easy to process, metal and similar items are harder, but plastic is the absolute worst. That's why the plastics have been hit very hard.

Eco Tax causes a stir in Malta by travel wire news

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Malta ranks 64th in Top 100 searches

From the MaltaMedia network:

Malta is ranked at the 64th place in the list of United Kingdom Top 100 Internet searches during 2004, the Mirror reports. The other tourist destinations ahead of Malta are Cyprus, London, Prague, Spain, Disneyland Paris, Tenerife, Australia and Amsterdam. Italy, Majorca and Florida which are a top holiday destinations, are ranked at the 82, 83 and 84th places. The UK’s favourite Internet search is Big Brother followed amazingly by Inland Revenue, Horoscopes and EastEnders. Not surprisingly, football is ranked at the 5th place.The Mirror reported that Top model Jordan is in the top ten, while Britney Spears is ranked next to Tattoos. Paris Hilton shares a slot under Digital Cameras, which are becoming very popular.Regarding football clubs, the most favourite is Arsenal (12th place), Liverpool (19th), followed by Manchester United. The MaltaMedia Online Network features prominently among Internet searches for Malta, especially through and

Stephanie Borg

A virtual exhibition of Stephanie Borg's colourful paintings has just been created. Following her first solo exhibition this year, Stephanie plans to promote her paintings via her new website:

Stephanie's describes her work as a vibrant exploration of colour and linear patterns with a sensibility of minute details and chromatic values. Stephanie is currently in Oman where she will be looking for inspiration in the breath holding landscapes that Oman and the Middle East can offer. Stephanie also digs deep into the cultures of the countries she lives in which usually directly inspire her work.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Sant and Gonzi Google Update

Following on the Wired Temples post of last week which was featured on the Malta Independent on Sunday, Opposition leader Alfred Sant is still ahead of Prime Minister Laurence Gonzi in the Google stakes. In the Maltese media, reflecting a status-conscious society, the two political leaders are usually affectionately known as Dr Sant and Dr Gonzi. So WT did a new search which resulted in 2,020 returns for "Dr Gonzi" and 11,000 for "Dr Sant". A Google search without quotation marks came up with 8, 380 hits for Dr Gonzi and an amazing 556,000 hits for Dr Sant.

Laurence Gonzi who according to his official Government profile "spent most of his childhood years in the Circolo Gioventu’ Cattolica, playing football and being a diligent pupil at the Archbishop’s Seminary in Rabat" requires more than prayer to turn the Google tables on Alfred Sant.

The heritage of the Maltese islands

The Archeology in Europe weblog is publicising a meeting by Heritage Malta on its plan of action for Gozo's cultural resources.The meeting, being held on Friday at 4 p.m. at the Sentinella base in the heart of the Citadel, Victoria, will be addressed by the Gozo and Culture Ministers:

Heritage Malta will outline its plans and projects for the forthcoming years, including the upgrading of all sites and the introduction of interpretation provisions, particularly at Ggantija Temples, which is the most visited site in the Maltese Islands, with around 170,000 visitors last year. Charles Fredrick von Brochtorff's book, The Archaeological Drawings, published by Midsea Books and Heritage Malta will also be launched.

Malta Online Bookshop

Heritage Malta: "The mission of heritage Malta is to ensure that those elements of the cultural heritage entrusted to it are protected and made accessible to the public"

Participate in an internet discussion about Malta's heritage sites - sign in using a Microsoft .NET Passport to post a comment

The future of Europe

This Saturday 5.35pm (repeat Sunday 7.15am) I will be participating in a TV programme debating European values on Super One channel. The programme Sejjahtli is moderated by Joyce Cassar and will feature a panel consisting of Peter Serracino Inglott and myself. Fr. Vanni Xuereb, the Church’s EU representative will also be featured in the programme. The issues raised will include the relationship between Christianity and Islam and the future of Europe.

For some background reading to the programme:

Silent Battles by Joe Vella Bonnici:

Last month, some one million Europeans signed a petition requesting the EU to accept a reference to Europe's Christian heritage in the proposed constitution. The mobilisation of public opinion on such a scale came in the aftermath of the flat refusal given by the EU Commission to the request of seven largely Catholic member states, Malta included. The Vatican too lobbied hard.

The EU Commission felt it appropriate that the constitution does not go beyond an ambiguous mention of the "cultural, religious and humanist inheritance of Europe". Now the EU Commission has confirmed that come late 2005, it will start accession talks with Turkey, a largely Muslim state. Not everyone agrees that Turkey joins the EU. Right-wing parties have already expressed a preference to offering a special partnership rather than membership. The latter is seen as another blow for the historical and religious identity of Europe.

Offering EU membership to Turkey is perhaps designed to secure the country for secularism. It is also a clear signal to Europeans, including the 10 million or so Muslim citizens, that its values of liberal humanism are blind as far as religious faiths are concerned.

The inclusion, or otherwise, of Europe's Christian heritage in the Constitution, is more than just a battle of words. The final outcome could have legal implications once the EU's constitutional text comes into force. It could possibly influence future court rulings on such issues as euthanasia, divorce, abortion and human cloning.

Our Parliament is expected to discuss the EU constitution soon. Hopefully, we will get to know how Malta looks at some of these issues.

'Why God stays out of it' - Peter Serracino Inglott in The Tablet

'A balancing act' - Interview with MaltaToday

Optimistic about athletics

Paul Grech praises Maltese athletes in this article written for the International Association of Athletics Federations:

2003 was always going to be a hard act to follow after Malta scaled new heights with a record medal haul secured at the Games for the Small States of Europe, and Tanya Blake becoming the first ever Maltese athlete to achieve the minimum qualification time to qualify for the Olympic Games. And so it proved to be in 2004!

From the administrative point of view, the most significant result was the successful staging of the European Winter Throwing Challenge. It was perhaps the biggest athletics event ever held in Malta and the end result was more than satisfying with a good number of top European athletes who specialise in the throwing disciplines coming to Malta to take part.

Malta Olympic Committee - Games for the small states of Europe.

Heidi's little world

Heidi Bonnici, another Maltese Aiesecer and member of nomad life ( like Maria and Thea), is currently in Edinburgh doing her graduate studies in artificial intelligence. In reflective mode during her vacation at home she blogged about the Maltese landscape and how it contrasts with the Edinburgh sky:

Its funny but even the feel of the place is different to edinburgh. Certain aspects start appearing, like here you look around and the general colour is yellow - citrus - meditterranean, with the bright blues and yellows. Even in the dead of winter you see these colours - they're striking. Edinburgh is Grey and whitish. There's blue too, i was surprised at the number of blue skies i actually have been seeing, but it is a very pale blue to here.

I dont think i have preference to any right now - they are both beautiful in their own perspectives - but its amazing how colours can change the environment and the vibe of a place. It was the first thing i noticed on coming back home.

AIESEC is the world's largest student organisation ( after the 'All China Students Federation') with a global network of 50,000 members across more than 83 countries and territories at more than 800 universities world-wide.

AIESEC in Malta

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Happy Maltese

According to The World Database of Happiness compiled at the Erasmus University in Rotterdam, Maltese people are leading the worldwide happiness barometer. Herman Grech of the Times spoke to the author, Dutch professor Ruut Veenhoven:

For the past 20 years, Prof. Veenhoven, 62, the world's only professor of social conditions for human happiness, has been collecting every scrap of reliable research from around the globe relating to life satisfaction. The research has spawned The World Database of Happiness, a collection of more than 8,000 findings from 120 countries.

Divided into two parts, it rates the happiness of 90 nations on a scale of 0 to 10 based on 2,498 general population surveys carried out between 1946 and 2004. The latest figures have taken into consideration the recent Eurobarometer surveys. However, this database is not limited to findings that reached authorised publications - "grey" reports and mere datafiles are included as well. The second part contains 8,496 findings of the correlation between happiness and factors as diverse as marriage, weight and intelligence.

Contacted by The Times, Prof. Veenhoven said there were several reasons why the Maltese topped the polls on the happy factor. Residents of small countries traditionally had more peace of mind, possibly because democracies were stronger, he said. "I know about the political turbulence in Malta but, still, it doesn't result in some overly decisive issue which affects people's happiness. Malta has a lot of freedom, it's part of the Western world and this is an important factor," he said.

Curious about the snow

Canada based Mishelly loves reading other people's blogs and decided to start one of her own. Last week she had guests from Malta who had never seen real snow:

Tonight we are having supper with some people who have come from Malta that my mom knows. They have never been to Canada in the winter before, so this is the first time they have ever seen snow. So everytime it starts snowing they run to the window to watch it. That seems so odd to me cause they are so amazed by it. I guess I would be too if I had never seen it before.

Casino di Venezia for sale?

According to rumours in Venice posted in the Venice-tourism-info weblog, the owners of Venice Casino may be considering selling their casino in Malta. The casino based in Vittoriosa may have to be sold to help finance their acquisition of Palazzo Grassi, Fiat's cultural institution in Venice. Palazzo Grassi museum is famed for it's international exhibitions. It is currently celebrating the hundreth anniversary of the birth of artist Salvador Dali:

Salvador Dali's writings account various anecdotes of making radical political statements more to shock listeners than from any deep conviction. When he fell into the circle of mostly Marxist surrealists who denounced as enemies the monarchists on one hand and the anarchists on the other, Dalí explained to them that he personally was an anarcho-monarchist!!

Casinos in Malta from

Malta according to Yahoo

Malta fact sheet from Yahoo's International Finance center:

Malta has been exempted from the controversial seven year moratorium on free EU labor movement sought by Germany and Austria as labor conditions on the island do not suggest any appreciable emigration is likely to occur. The EU has included Malta in the list of 10 countries which will likely meet accession standards by 2005.

Bereft of virtually all agricultural, mineral and energy resources, Malta relies upon its geographical position in Mediterranean shipping lanes and its picturesque charm and historic appeal. Limestone is Malta's only mineral resource of any quantity while all energy inputs, in the form of coal and petroleum, must be imported. Agricultural potential is extremely limited due to population density and the poor quality of the soil. Potatoes are Malta's leading crop. External agricultural dependency and inadequate fresh water supplies are chronic problems.

Malta on Country Watch

Malta Image Gallery

A magnificent woman takes a bow

Anna Semenovich was among the leaders of figure skating in Russia before quitting to take up music as a career. The Russian newspaper Moskovsky Komsomolets yesterday published an interview with the 24-year old half-Ukrainian star. She talks about her achievements, the price of success and her lifelong dream of visiting Malta which she realized this year:

For example, the judging is prejudiced in figure skating. It is not a secret for anyone, we saw it even in last Winter Olympic Games. Somehow to get up in the ranks one needs connections. I did not have those. Therefore, although our pair was second in the Russian rankings after Ilya Averbuh and Irina Lobacheva, we were seldom in first place. I was tired of such unfair refereeing. Besides, the big role in my decision to quit was certainly my trauma. I had a meniscus operation

In general they write mostly good things, such as "you are the most beautiful and charming.” And it is certainly pleasant. To tell you the truth, when such words are written on the dusty glass of the car, it is one thing, but when someone scratches them on the paint of my black Toyota Jeep, it is somewhat different. I go constantly to body-shops for painting.

And my superstitions do not depend on a season. For example, I would enter the skating rink always only from the left foot! In the world championship in Nice in 2000, I entered the rink from the right foot and fell in the original program! Ten seconds before the end - on such an element on which I never in my life fell before. And I always put my shoes on from the right foot. There are other signs, but they are very personal. For example, I have a talisman. But I shall not talk about it as to not to jinx my luck

It was a very good year for me. I became more popular than one year ago. I acted in a movie. My brother has been admitted to the university. I flew to Malta which I have dreamed of visiting for all of my life. And in general there were many happy moments.

Translated by Genrikh Sivorinovsky

I hate it when this happens!

Students returned to school today following the Christmas vacation. Laser is a 22 year old male blogger and science student who nearly drowned three times while diving in the open sea. He is apprehensive about his final months of studies at the university of Malta:

Two weeks of Christmas holidays and I just wasted it all...I did no assignments, didn't go out and spend some quality time with my girlfriend, even if I know I will not have a chance for that anymore until my finals are over back in June, and today we started university again...hour after hour after hour after hour...and after they have finished bantering out minds with useless crap that will become obsolete in a couple of years from now, since they don't think we had enough, they expect us to come home and continue our research till late......yeah enjoy your teenage cause that is the best time you will have in your life...not if you live in Malta though and attend University

Monday, January 03, 2005

Hunters Palace

Despite the short life span of Maltese rock band Hunters Palace, the unusual music they recorded attracted the enthusiastic attraction of music critics. Their two recordings 'Idle Times' and 'It's cold outside', reminiscent of The Jesus and Mary Chain and The Velvet Underground (both among my childhood favourites!), made a substantial impact on the local music scene. The group's two members Alex Vella Gera and Peter Sant spoke to MaltaToday about their music:

Your style is very unusual for Maltese bands, what do you attribute that to?

Alex: I guess we just listen to different music then most other people. I don't know what other people listen too though.
Peter: Most local bands are heavily Americanised, and I shamefully include ourselves. We just listen to a different section of American music - country, free folk...

Can you tell us something about the high and low points of your career so far?

Alex: The high point for Hunters Palace with regards gigs is definitely, in my view the one we did at Remedy in Paceville in January. Things just flowed out of our fingers effortlessly. The low point gig is the last one we did at ‘Sinners in Heaven’ in March. Basically, we all had a chip on our shoulder of some sort or other and the last ten minutes was literally us making noise for no artistic purpose at all. We were so pissed off we decided to piss off everyone else present.Creatively our high point must be the EP released now and a couple of songs off our other EP, ‘Idle Times,’ and for a low point there are a few silly songs we recorded just because we were bored and thankfully one day Peter's computer crashed and we lost them all.

Listen to the music of Hunters Palace here.

Throwing paint at US warship

Wisconsin born Daniel Stout, who once lived in Malta for a year, works at a Midwestern university and is an active blogger. He has commented in his weblog about the paint throwing incident in Malta's Grand Harbour:

If you’ve been abroad recently, then you’re aware that world opinion of the U.S. continues to worsen. The U.S. is no longer attracting the best foreign students. And people are taking every opportunity to show their disdain for the policies of the current president, which reflect on every American. In Malta, a country near and dear to my heart, two teenagers were charged with attempting to throw paint at a U.S. warship docked in the main harbor. I know people who voted for Bush, and I will leave no opportunity wasted to remind them of their decision to keep us in this disastrous war.

Moviment Graffiti, the face of Maltese radicalism ( they started off back in the nineties with a series of direct actions), distanced themselves from the Grand Harbour incident stating in a press release that such action goes against their statute. Anti globalists Graffiti are active against oppression and exploitation of people, environment and animals with a vision of freedom and radical democracy. Have a look at the Graffiti website here.

Sant and Gonzi on the internet

This weblog, which hit cyberspace on Christmas day, is already attracting attention from some quality sources. The pioneer of Maltese blogging, Toni Sant plans to feature Wired Temples on his blog in the coming days. A leading Sunday newspaper The Malta Independent on Sunday today features a story (page six of the printed edition) referring to a post in this blog entitled Sant and Gonzi. The newspaper quotes this blog and confirms the Google gap between Sant and Gonzi. This gap is of course not unrelated to the fact that Sant has been prominent on the Maltese political stage over a longer period of time. The Google check by the Sunday paper was apparently made without using quotation marks (" ") resulting in many more pages for both Sant and Gonzi with less accuracy. Do your personal checks. Always use quotation marks in internet search engines for better results. From the item on the Malta Independent about Wired Temples:

Sant and Gonzi slog it out on the Internet

Support for the two most prominent political leaders in Malta, Prime Minister Laurence Gonzi and Opposition Leader Alfred Sant is usually evenly balanced according to most opinion polls.

But not if you take the Google search engine as an indicator! If you look for “Alfred Sant” on Google you come up with 11,200 entries. If you google “Lawrence Gonzi” all you get is 121. Yes just 121 entries. If you restrict yourself to pages from Malta the gap is even wider – 4,460 hits for Sant and 22 hits for Gonzi.

This was affirmed by a new weblog, Wired Temples, put together by former Labour MEP candidate Robert Micallef. But a check carried out by this newspaper has shown that there are 146,000 entries for Dr Sant and 12,600 for Dr Gonzi.

Sant has been leader of his party for a longer period but with the general election only three years away, Gonzi has a lot of catching up to do, commented an entry in the blog.

In an odd twist, next to the Wired Temples story, the printed edition of the paper has a photo of Mr Anthony 'Temple' who is in Malta on his 65th visit. In 2003, a Government press release recorded his 6oth visit to Malta.

Toni Sant, founder and artistic director of MaltaMedia Online network, has posted some comments to Wired Temples. In addition, the search site has added - Wired Temples Malta on the Web - to it's links.

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Sunday, January 02, 2005

A developer's Malta report

Mike Hillyer is the webmaster of, a site dedicated to helping Visual Basic developers use MySQL, and also volunteers as the resident MySQL expert in the Ask the Experts section of Mike is the top ranked MySQL expert at He came to Malta a few weeks ago for a developers conference and wrote a report to record his thoughts:

My first experience in Malta was the Maltese nightlife. Every night there would be people milling about going in and out of clubs till the early morning hours. Even more surprising was the average age of the party goers. Some seemed as young as twelve, many seemed to be underage. The minimum drinking age was sixteen but I don't think anyone was enforcing it. The bouncers at the entrance of the clubs did not check anyone at all and seemed to be there just in case of disturbances.

Anyway, with the laptop battery running low and the wordcount running high, I think I shall bring this blog entry to a close, Malta has been a great week, not because of the scenery outside, but because of the things I learned while stuck inside. That being said, all good things must come to and end, and it will be good to be home again, with my wife, my children, and my Athlon 2.8 with the gig of Corsair RAM and dual monitors at 1600x1200.

Read the full Malta report.

Strange headed creature

The Urban legends and Folkore blog questions the existence of a strange Maltese creature:

A reader writes: "I received this pic of an alleged strange-headed lizard found in Malta, Europe. Does such a strange-headed creature really exist?"

Not anymore. According to Maltese biologist Patrick J. Schembri, the creature depicted is a Diplocaulus, an early salamander-like amphibian that has been extinct for some 270 million years. The photo (see full-size version here) must therefore be a fake, perhaps created digitally or staged using a toy model. From the Museum of Hoaxes:

Diplocaulus Found

Professor Patrick Schembri, of The Sunday times, reports of a new photo that's been making the email rounds showing a very strange looking animal captured in a bucket. Versions of the email variously claim that the animal was found either at Il-Maghluq in Marsascala, or in Bahrija. Schembri identifies the animal as none other than a Diplocaulus, extinct for 270 million years, which means that the photo almost definitely must be a hoax (either that or it's a major scientific discovery). He writes of the Diplocaulus: "The very distinctive head may have been an adaptation against predators, since the wide head would make Diplocaulus difficult to swallow, or it may have aided the animal to swim by acting as a hydrofoil. Like most other early amphibians, Diplocaulus lived in or near water. It probably fed on insects or fish. It was also considerably larger than the image doing the rounds suggests, since fossils as large as 80 cm in length have been discovered." (via The Anomalist)

Cultural differences in Europe

Sharon Spiteri, a Maltese journalist based in Brussels, and boyfriend Petri Enden, a Finnish research engineer, describe their first impressions of each other's countries:

It was fun though to end up in a bar with Sharon's friends very late at night on Christmas Eve - a time when Finnish people traditionally stay at home with their family.

Before my first visit to Malta, I was expecting it to be a bit more traditional than Finland in terms of relationships, since it had taken Sharon a lot of preparation and courage to finally confess to her mum that we were moving in together.

However, judging by the amount of Christmas presents we got for our home, I think everyone was OK about it after the initial fuss.

I would say that there are definitely more things that unite Malta and Finland than divide them With regard to politics, one day we were following the outcome of the Finnish elections in a bar here in Brussels, and Sharon was surprised that supporters of different political parties were peacefully watching the outcome together.

Comparing Maltese cultural and lifestyle trends

The Malta Study Center in the USA

An introduction to the Malta Study Center in Minnesota, USA:

The Malta Study Center, an integral part of The Hill Museum Manuscript Library, was established in 1973, with the assistance of and in collaboration with the Honorary Consul General of Malta-St. Paul/Minneapolis MN, Joseph S. Micallef, M. O. M., K. M.

The Center maintains a microfilm collection of more than 16,000 documents and dossiers of documents from Malta, covering the period of the twelfth to the twentieth century. The materials include the Archives of the Knights of Malta, the Cathedral Museum in Mdina, the Archives of the Inquisition, ecclesiastical records of the dioceses of Malta and Gozo, and musical compositions.

The Center continues to assemble a wide range of antiquarian and modern publications dealing with Malta's history, literature, and culture. It also collects materials pertaining to the Knights of St. John and the history of the Crusades. Visitors to the Center are welcome, and it is possible to order copies of microfilms from its collection. If you have a specific question concerning the Malta collection at the Hill Museum Manuscript Library or a comment about the Malta Center website, contact Theresa M. Vann, Hill Museum Manuscript Library, Saint John's University, Collegeville, MN 56321 USA (320-363-3993).

Ordering microfilm copies or printouts
Brief History of Malta
Brief History of the Order of St. John
Archives of the Order of St. John, Valletta (the Knights of Malta)
Cathedral Museum of Mdina
Additional Links

The Malta Study Center

An interview with Theresa M. Vann will be published tomorrow on The Sunday Times

Malta : A nationless state?

Godfrey Baldacchino, a Maltese writer based in Canada at the Institute of Island Studies, discusses the emergence of the Maltese nation as well as the formative role of the catholic church and political parties in the evolution of the Maltese state. It is an extract of a paper (available online only against payment) written by Baldacchino two years ago for the influential journal West European Politics. For a good understanding of Maltese society in a historical context this piece is essential reading:

With a long history of colonisation of at least five millennia, the Maltese come across today as a people with no internal racial tensions, united by the Catholic faith, speaking a unique language and living on definitively precise limestone blocks comprising just 316 square kilometres. Yet one may hazard to proclaim that Malta today is a 'nationless state', a 37-year-old sovereign unit where the nation is yet to be formed. It is easy to condone references to a monolithic 'Maltese Society'. Such a definitive term fails to render justice to sub-cultural traits amongst the Maltese and fails to take account of the existence of -- albeit very small -- minority groups, such as Indian entrepreneurs or retired British pensioners. But history, acute population density and the pervasive socialising powers of Catholicism have tended to erode many cultural differences overtime. It would, therefore, be fair to define Malta as a 'crossroads island' with a 'cosmopolitan and polyglot' population reflecting the 'ethnic and linguistics mixtures of Phoenician, Arab, Sicilian and British colonial influences'. Other than in extreme cases, ethnicity is not a relevant analytical category to contemporary Malta.

The Maltese Islands certainly qualify as pioneers in imaginative statecraft, having been held as a distinct fiefdom by Aragonese and Castellan landlords in the late Middle Ages and subsequently having spent a long period (1530-1798) as the seat of the Knights of St John of Jerusalem, a theocracy that ruled over Malta in an interesting chivalric and pioneering version of the European Union. Specific nation-building initiatives as such were not, however, encouraged by the ruling elite, including the Maltese aristocracy of lawyers, medics and priests, a comprador bourgeoisie even in a cultural sense that traditionally and linguistically associated itself readily with Italy. Indeed, the eventual unity of Malta with Italy was a policy pursued in the early to mid-1900s by various exponents of the strong Nationalist (sic) Party (NP), and several NP leaders, many with declared fascist sympathies, were interned in Uganda for the duration of the Second World War, when Malta served as the critical fulcrum of the British war effort in the Mediterranean theatre. The legitimation of Maltese as an official language by the 1930s was a largely unintended outcome of the struggle for cultural (and political) supremacy between Italian and English, the latter being the upcoming language of the new middle mercantile and administrative classes during the period of British rule (1800-l964). There was absolutely no struggle for political independence -- granted by Britain on 21 September 1964 -- and its pursuit was again a 'second best' option after attempts to secure full integration by the Malta Labour Party (MLP) with Britain had failed in the late 1950s. Premier Mintoff did negotiate successfully to extend the date of the eventual dismantling of the British Military Base in Malta, the mainstay of the local 'fortress' economy, up to March 1979.

This is not to argue that Malta has had no nationalist birth pangs. An undercurrent of anti-colonial resistance had been active in Malta certainly since the late Middle Ages. Even before Malta was officially declared a British colony by the Treaty of Amiens in 1814, there were already agitations for representative rights and institutions by members of the Maltese clerico-professional elite. The spontaneous 'bread riots' of June 1919 did bring about a reassessment of the assumed loyalty of the Maltese and paved the way to the first self-governing constitution in 1921. Still, the one 'national' rebellion to speak of in two centuries occurred during the brief French occupation (1798-1800). Then, the Maltese rose against their new occupiers when the French started despoiling the local Catholic churches of their gold and silver artifacts. Interestingly, it was in favour of the interests of the local Catholic Church that the Maltese rebelled; and clerics played a key role in organising the uprising.

The power of the Catholic Church in Malta must not be underestimated, even today. The Catholic Church and its ethos and ceremonies remain today the closest to a national Maltese symbol. In spite of evident secularisation, around 70 per cent of the population attend weekly mass regularly; a third of all young Maltese complete their schooling in church schools; and most young Maltese have to attend long hours of 'doctrine' to qualify for the sacrament of confirmation. There is one church or chapel for every square kilometre on the small archipelago, and many remain in use. Most of the arts -- including music, drama, sculpture, painting, folk stories -- are patronised substantially by the church and have explicit religious themes. 70 per cent of the Maltese identify commitment to religious values as their top priority in life. The decisions of the Catholic Church's ecclesiastical tribunal in declaring the annulment of marriages or otherwise are recognised in the civil courts. Malta remains the only European country that has not legalised divorce. Malta's long years as a Catholic fiefdom facilitated the emergence of a local ecclesiastical hierarchy that exercised strong political and cultural influence. This, in turn, has bred a national mind-frame strongly determined by religious precepts of propriety and morality. Thus, non-Christians have been historically relegated to the status of 'heathens' or 'infidels', and in this way have served as a convenient 'other' to the Maltese. The contrast aggrandises the role of the Catholic faith and church in moulding Maltese national identity, albeit in non-secular fashion.

The hegemony of the Catholic Church in Malta was dented most seriously in its drawn out confrontation with the Malta Labour Party during the 1960s. The Church then did not support the MLP's campaign for Malta's integration with Britain, for fear that its interests would not be safeguarded and would eventually be eroded in an Anglican British state. The Church may also have had serious concerns that Dom Mintoff, the charismatic MLP leader, had Communist tendencies which -- given his well-publicised overtures to China, North Korea and the Soviet Union -- might eventually translate Malta into a secular state where the Catholic Church would lose out. In a bitter showdown between Church and political party in 1961, the top MLP officials were excommunicated from the Church; the faithful were advised that voting for the MLP would be tantamount to a mortal sin; while MLP activists were denied the holy sacraments and were buried in nonconsecrated ground. Religious services of reparation were held at those public spaces that had hosted MLP meetings; this included the sprinkling of holy water. The crisis served to harden the resolve and commitment of the core MLP supporters and peace was only made in 1969, two years before the MLP was returned to power. Such high drama is still within living memory of the Maltese population, including the bulk of the current political and religious leadership.

Malta's proportional representation system with only two political parties represented in parliament is unique in Europe. With the allegiance of the voting population split neatly down the middle, the difference in voter support between the two main political parties has never been more than 13,000 votes since 1971. In such a situation, a 'winner takes all' political system prevails. A candidate requires close to 3,300 votes to get elected to the 65-seat national parliament, a small number that institutionalises close personal and patronage links between politicians and their constituents. The MLP and NP are today 'catch-all' parties, which deploy both conventional and modern techniques for both the mass and customised socialisation of citizens into loyal and unswerving party faithful. Each political party now has its own television station, radio station and newspapers; its own emblems, flags and anthems; not to mention the web of party clubs and com mittees spread all over the country. Information on the voting preferences of each and every Maltese is a key and active concern of the political parties. In the dense, claustrophobic social atmosphere -- there are almost 2,000 persons per square kilometre -- the presence, if not control, of the party is supreme and complete:
Partisanship in this polarized polity is so pervasive, ingrained and linked to class ideology and locality that preference patterns are known by street. Loyalties are strong, stable and rooted in social and family background ... Candidates can employ networks of family and friends to promote their election chances and to achieve greater social control over their sympathizers. They may also be able to reward their known supporters if elected.

With the overriding influence of the Church--now keen not to involve itself in partisan politics--the Maltese are, from cradle to grave, called upon to express loyalty and commitment to any of these three 'total institutions'. The political party thus takes on the characteristics of an ethnie, a moral community, extending the locus of empathy, trust and identification with others as if in an extended family. Loyalty to the state and to the ethnie may easily be perceived as being on a potential collision course. The strong sense of partisan identification and the (real or imaginary?) pursuit of partisan-driven clientism may easily override any sense of national patriotism to the larger civic and territorial whole. While the casual observer may dismiss the relevance of ethnicity from Malta's socio-political landscape, a local form of bicommunalism based on political ethnicity is current; an implosion of the democratic Maltese state as a result of partisan ethnic fragmentation appeared possible in the constitutional crisis of 1981-84.

In this incessant, internal struggle for loyalty and support, Maltese nationalism has lost out. The notion of the nation as an 'imagined community' becomes relevant. National symbols remain significant in their absence and, where identified, are quickly taken over and co-opted by partisan and/or religious motifs. A brace of poets and writers have struggled for some years to raise the spirit of nationalism, but their message has fallen on deaf ears and reads strangely hollow. Some academics have sought to emphatically announce the cultural maturation of Maltese nationalism, much like a natural development, particularly with the onset of political independence: 'Malteseness came of age ... The new state was, after all, an old nation.' But is this not more properly appraised as an exercise in wishfulfilment? Is this not part of the unconscious obligation to defend and justify nationalism, especially de rigueur in newly independent states?

The alternative explanation propounded in this paper is that the battle for the definition of Maltese national identity has yet to commence. Malta may be an 'old nation' in a cultural sense, but politically this nation does not disclose or manifest itself, whether to the inside or to the outside world. This critical assessment can be taken forward at different analytical levels. First, in specific situations, an easily manageable tourist front is resorted to by the Maltese in relation to foreigners; in this case, the language of communication is typically English. Amongst themselves, however, the Maltese develop an intricate knowledge of the partisan affiliations and loyalties of friends, family and acquaintances, effectively mapping a network of potential influence, patronage and obligation. In these instances, the interaction is strictly aural-oral, and the code is the Maltese language, conveniently incomprehensible to all but the locals. Second, in relation to the labour market and social stratification, the industrial working classes are traditionally loyal to the Labour Party, while farmers, entrepreneurs and civil servants gravitate mainly towards the Nationalist Party. In spite of a congruence of policy by the two political parties over recent decades, this occupational/social class split remains surprisingly strong. Third, macro-power structures are strongly aligned with political organisations. The latter have become well-organised networks at national, regional and local levels, down to specific streets and neighbourhoods. With one of the two political organisations in full control of the state apparatus at any time, the likelihood of obtaining desirable 'goods' from the state is generally seen to change in accordance with the nature and clout of individual partisan affiliation. Fourth, the cultural identity of the individual Maltese, and the perception of one's life world, remains substantially dominated by such partisan definitions. The Catholic Church, via the parish priest, provides the only escape route here, and only at a local level. Finally, the assessment of the past and the present continues to be dominated by contradictory interpretations of the relevance of historical events. As reported by an expatriate living in Malta (Ms Helga Ellul, a prominent German business woman married to a Maltese): the Maltese are very proud of their [past] history, but apparently not of their present.

The analyses converge: only the members of the troika--the two main political parties and the Catholic Church--loom large as anchors of identity. The 'national interest' has been sabotaged: imploded into frenzied partisanship internally; replaced by integrationism externally.

Saturday, January 01, 2005

Priests blogging in Malta

Fr. Michael Harrington, Fr. Edward Riley and Fr. Jeremy St. Martin, travelled from Boston to spend a week at the International Priest Retreat in Malta entitled "Priests for the Formation of Saints for the New Millenium." After the retreat in Malta last October, they continued on the footsteps of St. Paul travelling to Rome in time for the signing of the EU constitution. They recorded their whole stay in Malta with this weblog:

Friends, sorry there have been no posts until now but we were having trouble with internet access. We have arrived in Malta...all 27 of the Priests from Boston including Archbishop O'Malley. The Mediterranean Sea is beautiful. We are in Malta with 960 other priests from around the world participating in this conference "Formating Saints for the New Millenium; On the Footsteps of Paul Apostle." The conference began with a Mass at the beautiful Co-St. John the Baptist Cathedral. In the Church were relics (wrist bone) of St. Paul. It was a powerful Mass celebrated by Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos, Prefect for the Congregation of the Clergy. The next morning we had Morning Prayer led by Cardinal Pell, Archbishop of Sydney and confernces given by Cardinal Hoyos and Monsignor Bruno Forte, theologian from Italy. Later this afternoon we hope to post pictures and give some snippets of the conferences. Archbishop O'Malley is giving the meditation at morning prayer today. God is good and the graces are flowing. It is good to be here in the shadow of St. Paul.

The most moving part of the day for me was in the afternoon when we visited the Grotto of St. Paul. We entered this Church so filled with images from the life of St. Paul. We felt very at home in this Church. On the Altar they placed the relics (wristbone of St. Paul). All the priests gathered around the altar for prayer. We renewed our profession of faith in the very spot where the Maltese people first received the faith from St. Paul. Then, the relics were carried in procession from the Altar down through the grotto of St. Paul (cave where Paul lived for three months in captivity). We pretty much took up the rear of the procession because we wanted to take in as much as possible of the Church and grotto. The procession went from the grotto into the streets of Medina ( an ancient walled city with so much charm and beauty) and then on to the Cathedral of St. Paul.

We had an incredible day on the island of Gozo. I never would have expected the welcome we received. The townspeople lined the street from the Bus stop to the Church. They held out their children so we could give them blessings or a simple handshake and smile. The parish Church we first came upon was more like a Cathedral. It was incredibly beautiful. The amazing thing was it was built from 1951 to 1971. I thought later on that many of the people who were welcoming us had most likely been involved in the building of this most remarkable structure. They must have been filled with joy today to witness 1000 priests and about 25 Bishops doing morning prayer in their church.