Evening Update Friday 20th January 2023

A manhunt has been launched for a former soldier who has gone missing near Menton, after his wife accused him of being violent towards her and their children. The woman and children fled the family home in Val de Gorbio last night, took refuge with neighbours and called police. The man locked himself in the home and refused to comply with police orders to come out. Police tried reaching him on his mobile phone, but he refused to answer. The French national police's elite intervention unit, RAID, were called out to handle the stand-off, believing the man to be armed and dangerous. When they finally managed to gain access, the man had somehow already escaped and a major search is under way. The former soldier, who is in his 30s, is experienced in handling weapons and is a former Alpine hunter. His wife and children were taken to Palmosa hospital for checks and are being taken care of by relatives.

Yesterday's large-scale day of strike action against French pension reforms is barely over - but we already know when the next one will be. Unions have called for another day of demonstrations on Tuesday 31 January. The CGT trade union claims more than two million people took part in more than 200 demonstrations around France yesterday. The interior ministry puts its estimate at 1.1 million.

Passengers on an EasyJet plane from Nice to Paris had to wait more than three hours on board before their plane could take off from the Côte d'Azur yesterday. Tensions ran high on board and police had to be called out to disembark some of the passengers. The plane had a long wait for take-off due to air traffic control problems, as a result of yesterday's nationwide strike against pension reform.

Prosecutors are seeking an order to kill two rottweilers that violently attacked a jogger in Draguignan. A man suffered serious leg injuries in the attack while out running last week. The dogs have since been taken away from their owner. The Draguignan prosecutor wants the animals put down, believing there to be a risk that they could attack again. The presence of children in the family home is a major factor in the decision. The final decision rests with a judge, with a ruling expected sometime next week.

Drivers on the A8 motorway have spotted two new speed cameras that have been set up in the Var. On the eastbound side, the new radar is between junctions 39 for Fayence and 40 Mandelieu-la-Napoule. Heading westbound, the camera is between 39 Fayence and junction 38 for Fréjus. The speed cameras' presence has not yet been officially confirmed and it's not clear at this stage when they will start functioning.

A major rat extermination operation is under way in Nice, as pest control experts warn that global warming and droughts are bringing more rodents to our city centres. Winter is normally a quieter period, but authorities have noticed an upsurge in rat numbers linked to mild weather. Municipal rat-catchers in the city of Nice place locked black boxes with bait inside, and check them regularly. If a large presence is detected in a certain area, only then do the pest control experts put poison in each box. Nice authorities say rats will always be a reality in any city - the goal is to maintain their population to the lowest possible level.

In local sport, this year's edition of the Tour de la Provence cycle race has been cancelled. The event was not recognised this year in the International Cycling Union's 2023 road-race calendar. The union said certain conditions had not been met by the organisers, who in turn tried to appeal against the decision. That appeal has now been rejected. The Tour de la Provence was due to take place from 9-12 February.

And finally, some good luck news for the weekend. A retired woman has won a jackpot of more than €186,000 by playing a slot machine at the Partouche casino in Bandol in the Var on Wednesday this week. She had made an initial bet of just €3. Meanwhile, in Antibes, a man has come forward to claim his quarter-a-million euro prize after playing a lucky scratchcard on Christmas Eve. The man popped into the Riviera Tabac in La Fontonne just before the réveillon celebrations began and picked up a €5 scratchcard. He had a one in 4.5 million chance of winning the jackpot.

BUSINESS

Google's parent company Alphabet will cut 12,000 jobs, in the latest staff redundancies to hit the tech industry. Google and Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai said he took "full responsibility" for the cuts, in an internal email. The cuts will affect 6% of Alphabet's workforce worldwide, in teams including recruitment and engineering. This comes days after Microsoft announced 10,000 jobs would be lost, and weeks after Amazon announced 18,000 job cuts.

Cryptocurrency lender Genesis has filed for bankruptcy. The firm had recently been charged by US regulators Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) with illegally selling crypto. It is part of the Digital Currency Group (DCG), a conglomerate of more than 200 crypto-focused businesses. The insolvency of Genesis is linked to the bankruptcy of FTX, which went under last November amid allegations of fraud. Genesis had originally been set up as an "over the counter" Bitcoin trading desk, enabling the trade of large amounts of crypto. Earlier this month, it announced it was laying off 30% of its staff, taking it down to 145 employees.

Reed Hastings is stepping down from his role as co-chief executive of Netflix, the firm he helped found more than 25 years ago. His announcement came as Netflix unveiled a big rise in subscriber numbers at the end of last year. With money tight, people were expected to cut back on streaming services. But Netflix bucked that trend, adding more than seven million new subscribers, far more than analysts expected. Mr Hastings' long-planned move means he is leaving Netflix in a crowded market, with challenges ahead, but with 231 million viewers signed up around the globe. Mr Hastings, who was an early pioneer in the streaming business and is seen as one of the original tech industry disruptors, will stay on as executive chairman. The firm will now be run by Ted Sarandos and Greg Peters, both already in senior executive positions.

SPORT

Tennis - British men's number one Cameron Norrie is out of the Australian Open after losing to rising star Jiri Lehecka. Norrie, seeded 11th, had been aiming to knock off another notable career milestone by reaching the last 16 at Melbourne Park for the first time. He led by two sets to one before Czech Lehecka fought back to win 6-7 (8-10) 6-3 3-6 6-1 6-4 in the third round.

Andy Murray says finishing his second-round match at the Australian Open at 4am was a "farce". The 35-year-old's arduous five-set win over home favourite Thanasi Kokkinakis took five hours 45 minutes. That followed Murray's first-round win on Tuesday, when the Briton sealed victory in four hours 49 minutes against Italian Matteo Berrettini.

Third seed Stefanos Tsitsipas continued his strong start to the Australian Open with a straight-set win over Tallon Griekspoor to reach the fourth round. The Greek, the highest seed left in the men's draw, beat the 63rd-ranked Dutchman 6-2 7-6 (7-5) 6-3. Tsitsipas has yet to drop a set in Melbourne as he bids for his first Grand Slam title.

World number one Iga Swiatek needed just 55 minutes to beat Spanish qualifier Cristina Bucsa and breeze into the Australian Open fourth round. Poland's Swiatek, 21, won 6-0 6-1 on Margaret Court Arena and will play Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina next. Third seed Jessica Pegula also enjoyed a speedy victory on Friday, taking 65 minutes to beat Marta Kostyuk 6-0 6-2. Seventh seed Coco Gauff advanced with a 6-3 6-2 victory over American compatriot Bernarda Pera.

Football - Newcastle United striker Chris Wood is undergoing a medical at Nottingham Forest on Friday before moving on loan until the end of the season. The deal could go through in time for the New Zealand international, 31, to play against Bournemouth on Saturday. Wood played a key part in Newcastle's relegation battle last season after joining from Burnley for £25m. Wood has played 18 games for the Magpies in the league this season, scoring twice, but has only made four starts.
 

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