Beaten by the kid

▪️ Beaten by the kid ▪️ Abela’s gift horse ▪️ Homes for pigeons ▪️ Draghi’s challenge

All too often we read about the problem of domestic violence, especially against women, and the whole nation is shocked when it leads to somebody’s murder.  The of case of Bernice Cassar, now being re-run in the courts in proceedings against her husband, is etched in the collective memory.

However, domestic violence is not, as I hinted, just against women.  There is a hidden number of men who are beaten by their wives or partners.  We don’t know about it because no self-respecting man would dream of filing a report with the Police and probably become the subject of painful barbs by other men. Now we have been told that domestic violence is being perpetrated by kids on their parents.

According to a reply given to a parliamentary question by the Opposition’s Spokesperson for Active Ageing, Paula Mifsud Bonnici, between 2021 and 2023 the police received reports of 630 parents who fell victims to domestic violence at the hands of their children. 

Minister for Home Affairs, Security, Reforms, and Equality, Byron Camilleri, informed the MP that 225 of the victims were fathers, while the vast majority (405) were mothers.  Incredibly, exactly half of the victims were 60 years old or older. Thankfully, the police took action against the perpetrators in 461 of the cases reported.

It would be interesting to find out the make-up of the reports in terms of the nature of the domestic violence concerned, that is whether it was physical, sexual, emotional, or psychological abuse; the age and gender of the perpetrators, and other relevant details. 

By the way, domestic violence can also be of an economic nature.  Perpetrators of economic violence control the victim’s ability to acquire, use, and maintain economic resources, threatening their economic security and potential for self-sufficiency.  Economic violence often occurs in the context of intimate relationships. 

Although our legislation includes such violence, the statistics published by the NSO do not report economic violence as such.  Its incidence is lumped with sexual violence and together were reported to have been 12.7% of all cases in 2022.  I suspect that economic violence is much more pervasive but under-reported, either because victims are not aware that they can report it or because they are afraid to do so.

Abela’s gift horse

Has Robert Abela abjured the PL and joined Bernard Grech at the PN?  I was overcome by this suspicion when the PM advised the Opposition Leader to change his economic team to be more effective in criticising the government.  Mind you, truth be told, it wasn’t the PM himself who said so but a PL spokesman, though  little does it matter.

The PL spokesman was commenting on a press statement by the PN’s economic spokesmen about the trade deficit, wherein it excoriated the government for being unable to assure one.  The PL statement pointed out that in no month since trade statistics have been compiled  ̶  and that’s several dozen decades under successive governments, including the PN’s  ̶   has the country registered a trade surplus.    

The PN’s statement astonishingly further berated the government about the fact that it had not asked the UN Security Council to intervene in the matter of Malta’s cost of living.   I too had been surprised by this PN idea, thinking to myself how a Security Council which is labouring under mightily weighty issues like the Ukraine War, the genocide in Gaza, and various other international crises, would find the time to piddle in Malta’s cost of living issue.

There are myriad institutions and bodies which are more suited to economic discussions than the Security Council, not least in the EU through the European Central Bank and the Commission.  These have all been deeply involved in the response to the recent inflation bout and are much better equipped than a mere talking shop, even if it is called the Security Council.

To be fair, had the PN mentioned the Security Council in the context of addressing the attacks on international shipping in the Red Sea by the Iran-aligned Houthi rebels and their effect on shipping costs, I would have said they had a point.  But, even there, the UN Security Council, of which Malta is currently a non-permanent member, had already demanded that the Houthis immediately end the attacks and cautioned against escalating tensions. 

Weren’t the PN spokesmen aware of that?  Apparently not.  Or were they aware of it and tried to surreptitiously own the issue?   Whatever the reason, they ended with eggs on their faces. By the way, to confirm my point that the Security Council is toothless, it limited itself to a resolution while the real action was taken by the US and UK with a series of strikes against Houthi military targets.

Having commented on previous PN statements about economic matters, I believe that the Opposition Leader should not look Abela’s gift horse in the mouth, even though I doubt that the Prime Minister was genuine in his offer!

Homes for pigeons

A new study suggests that pigeons in Malta prefer older and more traditional buildings rather than modern ones, with historic town centres providing the birds more opportunities to roost. This was one of the findings by research conducted by members of the Faculty of Science at the University of Malta into what makes pigeons choose their homes as well as how abundant they are in certain areas.

In a paper published in Xjenza, a local science journal run by the Malta Chamber of Scientists, the authors wrote how they found pigeons to be abundant in Valletta and the towns that surrounded the northern harbour area, followed by the southern harbour area, with the least number of pigeons being observed in the northern area.

I was amused to read that pigeons seem to prefer the architecture of old buildings in town centres rather than the more modern one in the suburbs.  The ferals don’t have the same problems of finding suitable accommodation, lack of parking, congestion, and all the other aggravating circumstances that make humans want to flee from town centres.  “Old buildings provide ample roosting places through their more elaborate design, with high physical complexity,” said the authors of the study.

Photo: Frantisek Duris

Public open spaces, usually situated in the vicinity of a parish church or chapel, are ideal as the architecture offers many opportunities for the pigeons to roost. Apart from this, people enjoy eating in parks, providing another indirect food source for the birds, or even a direct one when people feed pigeons.  For the more discerning pigeons, the abundance of restaurants in old town centres provides pigeons with opportunities to scavenge for food.  The study does not delve into whether they prefer Michelin star restaurants or fast foods outlets! 

You might ask how the researchers were able to arrive at these conclusions.  Well, that’s what science is for.  The authors analysed their observations by using so-called  negative binomial regressions. Negative binomial regression is used to test for connections between a ‘confounding’ variable (that is, a variable that influences both the supposed cause and effect  ̶  in this case, it could be the body-mass or the age of the pigeons or noise disturbances) and ‘predictor’ variable (that is, a variable to predict a relationship, in this case the relationship between the number of pigeons and the type of architecture).

The regression analysis established that the abundance of feral pigeons is mostly affected by the presence of modern buildings and the relationship is a negative one, that is, abundance of pigeons is low where there is a preponderance of modern buildings.

Somebody might say: interesting, but who cares?  Well, that would be very short-sighted.  For a start, if the science shows that pigeons prefer baroque or old buildings, then don’t build traditional buildings where you don’t want pigeons to congregate.  On the other hand, if one would like to have more birds in an urban environment or even in high buildings, it could well be that modern buildings may be designed to have roosts for such birds as kestrels or starlings if they are preferred to pigeons.

Draghi’s challenge

A couple of weeks ago the Italian politician Enrico Letta met Maltese Prime Minister Abela and the Malta Council for Economic and Social Development (MCESD) to discuss the future of the European Single Market (ESM).  Letta is the EU’s Rapporteur on the subject.  The PM has reportedly given him Malta’s views on this as well as suggestions for breathing new life into the ESM with particular reference to Malta’s needs.

It is generally acknowledged that the European single market has been underperforming compared to other leading economies, marked by sluggish growth rates since the 1990s, lower returns, and inadequate investment in research and development, particularly when compared to the US. Furthermore, the EU lags behind on the latest technological advancements that are instrumental in fostering growth.

A close look shows that, since the mid-1990s, average productivity growth in the EU has been weaker than in other major economies, leading to an increasing gap in productivity levels. Demographic change adds further strains. Analyses show that the EU is also not at par with other parts of the world in some transversal technologies, trailing in all three dimensions of innovation, production and adoption, and losing out on the latest technological developments that enable future growth.

While the EU is dealing with the immediate effects of a cascade of crises  ̶  post-Covid blues, the Ukraine war, and a severe bout of inflation  ̶  it has become clear that a long-term vision is needed to create predictable and competitive conditions for businesses to flourish within the European social model.

In support of Letta, the European Commission has mandated Mario Draghi, the renowned economist and ex-Prime Minister of Italy and President of the European Central Bank, to come up with proposals to revitalise the EU’s economy in the face of competition from China and the United States.  His report is expected to be delivered in June or July.  Draghi had already been involved in the relaunch of the ESM in 2010, when he prepared a report for the European Commission, complementing one by then Maltese MEP Louis Grech prepared for the European Parliament.

There are high expectations of Draghi’s upcoming report.  Whether it will do the trick is a moot point.

Main photo: RDNE Stock project

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