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Riviera and French News Wednesday 8th March 2017

UPDATE 18:00

Fire - Seventy firefighters are tackling a wildfire near the town of Bouyon, which has burned its way through ten hectares of brush and dry grass. The cause of the fire is unknown.

Restaurant - Disaster was avoided today when an out of control truck rammed into the 202 Restaurant in Castagniers, north of Nice. The restaurant owner said normally the terrace would be full but fortunately it was a quiet day and no-one was injured.

Strike - The French air traffic controllers strike continues to affect flights to and from Nice Cote d’Azur airport, with almost 20 flights cancelled today, many with Easyjet. Meanwhile, today’s Italian train strike has led to no train services between Menton and Ventimiglia, up to 6pm this evening.

Avalanche - A Level Three avalanche alert was in place for ski resorts today. It follows yesterday’s huge avalanche in Tignes, two smaller avalanches at Isola 2000, and another, which killed an off-piste skier between Vars and Risoul.

Cigarettes - The price of cigarettes is to increase yet again. The Health Minister has said she intends to add ten cent a pack before the end of Francois Holland’s term in office.

Survey - A new lifestyle survey shows that people along the Riviera are the most content about where they live, with over 80% saying they are happy here. That’s almost 10% above the national average for France.

BUSINESS

In his Spring Budget speech to parliament today, the UK Chancellor has announced tax increases for the self-employed, a reduction in tax free dividend thresholds for shareholders and directors of small private firms, and a tax avoidance clampdown.

China has reported its first monthly trade deficit in three years, after imports surged and output slowed down. Higher commodity prices and domestic demand pushed February's imports up 38% on the year before. However, exports fell 1.3%, giving an overall trade deficit of $9.2bn for the month.

The Japanese firm that bought ARM Holdings less than a year ago is reported to be selling off a 25% stake, worth $8bn, to a technology fund it is creating with Saudi Arabia. ARM have declined to comment on the reports.

SPORT

Football - Jose Mourinho has criticised the pitch for Manchester United’s Europa League match against Russian side FC Rostov on Thursday. Rostov, who are fifth in the Russian Premier League, play at a stadium built in 1930 with a capacity of just over 15,000. Mourinho said he didn’t know what team to play on the field, if you could call it a field.

A special match between France and Italy, with teams composed of former international players, is to be held at the Allianz Riviera stadium on June 17th. The match is to raise funds for victims of the July 14th attack.

Formula 1 - Lewis Hamilton says he believes Ferrari may have the quickest car in the pre-season testing programme. Although Williams lead on the final tests, Ferrari are just two points of a second behind on a slower tyre. Hamilton himself was fourth fastest for Mercedes.

Rugby - Ireland coach Joe Schmidt has named an unchanged starting line-up for Friday's Six Nations game against Wales. The only minor change is in the replacement squad where wing Tommy Bowe is coming in for his injured Ulster team-mate Andrew Trimble.

UPDATE 07:00

Avalanche Alert - Due to recent snow fall and strong winds Météo France has put in place a level 3 out of 5 avalanche alert for the regions ski resorts. Two avalanches took place on Tuesday in Isola 2000 fortunately not causing any casualties. The warning is in place until this evening. Meanwhile French officials announced on Tuesday that skiers on a “family slope” in the popular French Alpine resort of Tignes which was hit by an avalanche on Tuesday morning had all been found safe and well.

Strike - An Italian train strike is expected to impact local French services today in the Alpes Maritimes. Up to 30 trains are expected to be cancelled, especially between Menton and Ventimiglia from 9am to 6pm. Meanwhile, the French air traffic controllers strike led to over 50 flights to and from Nice Cote d’Azur airport being cancelled on Tuesday. Air France, British Airways and Easyjet flights are the hardest hit. Passengers have been told to check with their airline before travelling.

Film Award - Three young film makers from the region have won the “40 hour film project” in Seattle. Alex Guillemain from Nice, Julien Gantié from the Colle-sur-Loup and Fabien Lacroix from Vence were awarded best short film award in 48 hours for their film “Marginaux” which is the story of a stolen guitar, with four main characters shot between Cagnes-sur-Mer and Nice.

National

François Fillon - According to the latest revelations by the French weekly Le Canard Enchanié the scandal-hit French presidential candidate François Fillon received an interest-free, undeclared loan of €50,000 from a billionaire businessman in 2013. The paper said that Fillon “did not deem it necessary” to report the loan to a state transparency watchdog. Fillon’s lawyer told the paper that he had fully repaid the loan. The paper said Fillon explained to investigators that he had simply forgotten to mention the loan in his declaration.

Rhino shot dead - A rhino has been shot dead by poachers at a zoo in France in what is believed to be the first such incident in Europe. Keepers found Vince, a four-year-old white rhino, in his enclosure at the Zoo near Paris on Tuesday morning. One of his horns had been hacked off with a chainsaw. The African rhino's horn commands high prices on the black market, with about 100 killed every month in the wild. This is thought to be the first time poachers have targeted a rhino living in a European zoo. France outlawed the trade in ivory and horns last year.

Business

Chinese telecom giant ZTE has been fined $1.1billon dollars and will plead guilty to charges that it violated US rules by shipping US-made equipment to Iran and North Korea. According to the Justice Department ZTE obtained and illegally shipped US-made equipment to Iran in violation of US sanctions. It also sent goods to North Korea without the correct export licences. The US said ZTE lied to authorities and its own lawyer about the violations. It must now pay a $892m (£740m) penalty as well as $300m which will be suspended for seven years depending on the firm meeting certain conditions. ZTE says it acknowledges it has made mistakes, and is working towards improving its procedures.

Latest figures show that Brazil has been in recession for two years, marking the deepest economic decline since records began. The economy contracted by 3.6% in 2016, meaning it is now 8% smaller than it was in December 2014. The country has been hard hit by the fall in commodity prices and an internal political crisis that has undermined investor confidence.

And – A study in Singapore suggests that taking a yellow taxi instead of a blue one reduces your risk of an accident. Researchers analysed three years worth of accident data from the city-state's largest taxi operator, whose fleet is predominantly blue and yellow. It concluded yellow vehicles had about six fewer crashes per thousand taxis each month than their blue equivalents. The greater visibility of the brighter cars was suggested to be the main reason for fewer accidents.

Sport

Football – Ten-man Arsenal were knocked out of the Champions League at the last-16 stage for the seventh successive season. In other football news Zlatan Ibrahimovic has accepted a three-match ban for violent conduct for elbowing Bournemouth's Tyrone Mings during Saturday's 1-1 draw at Old Trafford. The Manchester United striker will miss Monday's FA Cup quarter-final at Chelsea and Premier League games against Middlesbrough and West Brom.

Rugby – Billy Vunipola will feature against Scotland in the Six Nations on Saturday, after being confirmed in England's matchday squad. The number eight made his comeback from a knee injury last weekend, and is included in a 24-man training party to prepare for the Calcutta Cup match.

Formula One – With three days remaining of Formula 1’s pre-season testing programme Lewis Hamilton has said he believes Ferrari may have the quickest car. Williams driver Felipe Massa set the pace on the first day of the final test but Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel was less than 0.2 seconds behind on a slower tyre. Hamilton was fourth fastest for Mercedes, 0.5secs behind the German.

Weather

Fine and sunny in the Alpes Martimes and the Var with a moderate north easterly wind. Highs of 17 degrees in Antibes and 15 degrees in Nice. 18 degrees in Saint Tropez and 17 in Toulon. Clouding over late afternoon across the region with lows this evening of 5 degrees in the Var and 8 degrees in the Alpes Maritimes.

Thursday and Friday – Similar to today with clear skies and highs of 17 degrees in both the Alpes Maritimes and the Var.

Finally

Celebrating your 100th birthday is quite an impressive achievement. But for Majorie Ovens, who lives at a care home in Newport, it started as a bitter sweet day because though she was surrounded by friends – she has no immediate family.

Thankfully, after a request was put out in the local paper, a bunch of strangers got in touch with Eleanor Hodson House Nursing home and asked if they could throw Marjorie a surprise party.