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Maltese report Maltese report
by Euro Reporter
2012-10-22 10:40:44
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Maltese businesses are being endangered

The Government’s bad decisions in the energy sector were endangering Maltese businesses and the economy, Labour leader Joseph Muscat said yesterday. The damaged turbine in the newly built Delimara power station extension has made the country dependent on the Marsa power station which, 20 years ago, was said to be unreliable, Dr Muscat told a political meeting in Mtarfa. “The Government’s wrong choice is endangering the economy. If something goes wrong, the security of energy supply to factories, industry and small businesses would be endangered,” he said. Dr Muscat said he was very concerned that this would jeopardise the country’s competitiveness and, as a result, jobs. The handover of the Delimara extension, built by Danish company BWSC, to Enemalta was meant to take place next month but was postponed by at least six months due to major damage to one of its turbines.

Dr Muscat accused the Government of trying to hide the situation. “Three days after Joe Mizzi’s statement, the Finance Minister confirmed it and said he knew about it. So why didn’t he speak out before?” he asked. He said the Opposition wished it had not been proved right over the extension. The Marsa power station was inefficient and Malta was not going to fall in line with EU emission laws, leading to fines from the EU. “The Finance Minister gave the impression that these fines would be paid by BWSC but it emerged that we will have to take them to court,” he said. The contract with BWSC, which had been quickly signed, included a clause that any issues between the company and the Government or Enemalta would be dealt with in a European court. Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi said yesterday that BWSC had accepted full responsibility and would also be making good on damages the country sustained due to the delays. Turning to the issue of the lease agreement for St Philip’s Hospital, Dr Muscat said the Opposition was ready to be convinced that it was the best deal for the country.

“I appeal to the Government to have the decency to wait until Wednesday to discuss it in Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee,” Dr Muscat said. The Opposition was not interested in the hospital’s owner. “But if he wants to politicise the issue then so can we. He said he is ready to include a clause in the contract so that a new government can opt out without fines. So now we have established there are fines in the contract. Who decided them and how much are they?” he asked. Turning to the Budget, Dr Muscat said he was worried about a possible situation whereby a new year would start without the Budget having been approved.


Is it time for gardening?

I wrote this column late in the evening of last Thursday. I had been planning to write a piece about Adrian Buckle’s announcement, reported on this newspaper on the same day, that he was hoping to stage Anthony Nielson’s Stitching by early next year after the passing of the Bill amending censorship laws. A press release by the European Respiratory Society prompted me to postpone the Stitching piece to next time. Stakeholders may say: “See, they don’t care about the censorship issue.” They do care. Watch this space. ERS is an NGO with headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland, and an EU Affairs Department on the eighth floor of 49-51 Rue de Tréves in Brussels. The ERS is a respected, worldwide network of about 10,000 respiratory professionals in around 100 countries involved in both basic science and clinical medicine, interested in preventing, managing and treating respiratory diseases and generally improving patient care. You can read more about it on their informative, no-nonsense website. On October 18, the ERS announced that, the previous night, its Brussels office was broken into and “confidential data relating to the revision of the EU Tobacco Products Directive and other issues” were stolen.

The ERS premises are apparently the only ones on the eighth floor equipped with outdoor alarm sensors on the balcony. “As a professional medical society, we take precaution to protect our data and premises”, the ERS makes it a point to say. The outdoor sensors were destroyed and the intruders appear to have evaded the indoor ones. They can’t have been amateurs. Not only that but, one suspects, they also had a strategy. This emerges from the diversionary tactics. ERS notes that: “While the office initially seemed carelessly ransacked, our security report shows that the break-in was in fact very methodical and calculated.” Burglars that not only target one particular apartment in a multi-storey block looking for something in particular but give the impression that they were not looking for anything specific except, presumably, valuables? ERS spell it out for us: “ERS is an evidence-based organisation and we do not subscribe to conspiracy theories. However, in light of the evidence we feel we have legitimate reason to suspect the intrusion was well-planned, researched and targeted.” Conspiracy theories – convoluted explanations involving plots masterminded by powerful hidden forces – are, of course, part of everyday life in a media-saturated world of spin and counter-spin. Which is not to say that we live in a world where what you see is what you get. On the contrary.

This was not the only statement issued by ERS last Thursday. In another press release, the NGO noted the resignation of Commissioner John Dalli on October 16, which decision, “according to the European Commission”, was reached following the findings of OLAF, the EU’s anti-fraud office. The NGO also noted Dalli’s categorical rejection of the said findings. The final sentence summarises its ultimate concern: “These unfortunate events have delayed and jeopardised the long overdue revision of EU legislation on tobacco products aimed at protecting citizens from the serious health effects of tobacco use.” Our most immediate concern is admittedly less universal. We are concerned about the effects of these “unfortunate circumstances” on our own country, Malta. On its image in Europe and the world, on the impact on our electorate and, perhaps more importantly, on our own collective sense of self-esteem or amour-propre in the sense of La Rochefoucauld. Those even less gently cynical than the author of the Réflexions Ou Sentences Et Maximes Morales will remind me that with elections round the corner we should be more urgently concerned with the local political repercussions of the affair. Well, it has certainly caused confusion among ordinary Nationalist Party supporters. Many of the more active ones interpret it as proof that Lawrence Gonzi was the best man after all. In fact, the dafter among canvassers, Dar Ċentrali officials, district rank-and-file militants and local councillors are known to have practically rejoiced.


‘I am not a faith healer... but I can change your life’

For the Maltese woman who used to be petrified of cheese, Alan Bates is a hero. In a single hypnotism session, her odd phobia was erased: she no longer broke out in a sweat and felt faint at the sight of cheese. British hypnotist Alan Bates was last in Malta five years ago. He treated people suffering from quirky phobias such as fear of bird feathers and helped scores of chain smokers to stamp out their last cigarette butt. Such was his success that he regularly receives e-mails from Maltese people pleading him to come back and help them. “The things that can be done with hypnosis can be life-changing. I can use the powers of the mind, therapeutically, to help people with their issues or problems,” said Bates, 55. Two smokers who successfully attended his stop smoking workshop five years ago recently regressed. “They flew over to England for a day, came to my house, had one session and stopped smoking again,” he said.

There will not be any need to book flights though: he is heading to Malta again in November to stage a comedy show and stop smoking workshops. Bates’ sing-song Scouse accent betrays his home city of Liverpool but he is constantly travelling around the world for shows and workshops, hypnotising people to win their battle with smoking. The myth about the typical hypnotist’s image – the evil frowning man with a swinging pendulum in hand, is easily dispelled with just one look at Bates. With his salt-and-pepper hair and piercing, smiling eyes, he looks like someone who will sort out the world for you. So does he just look at people and hypnotise them? “I have the ability to hypnotise perfect strangers very, very quickly. But still it doesn’t work for everyone. The microphone I use is not a magic wand,” he said. He refuses to go into detail about “the tricks of the trade” of how he actually hypnotises people in front of him, but it does not sound like an unobtainable skill.

“I could teach you to be able to hypnotise someone and you may be able to do it,” he said. His was a late calling. Hypnosis turned into a vocation in his early 30s, when he was an entertainer and worked as a radio DJ. He had watched people being hypnotised and was originally very sceptical. Then, one day he got in close contact with a hypnotist and was hooked. He packed up everything and started studying psychology and training as a hypnotist. “I started by experimenting on friends and doing smaller shows – and I built up my abilities and my confidence to be able to take the show on a big stage,” he said. During his “cheeky” comedy show, he opens people’s minds to susceptibility. “If I tell you that you have 10 fingers on each hand, you will look at your hand and you will see 10 fingers on your hand, even though you know you only have five,” he said. People enjoy the experience as he only “suggests” positive things, such as getting them to believe they have won the lottery. “There is no danger in this. At the end of the show all the suggestions are completely and totally removed, so whoever has been hypnotised will be in the same state of mind they started off with,” he said. Because hypnosis had a bad name in the past, he makes it very clear that he respects the people on stage: “Only willing volunteers can be hypnotised and they take to the stage only if they want to.” He is proud of his work, which helps people’s lives to take a turn for the better. “Getting people to stop smoking is very important to me because I am changing people’s lives and saving their lives,” he said.

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