Evening Update Friday 24th March 2023

King Charles III's state visit to France has been postponed, after a request by President Emmanuel Macron. The Elysée Palace said the decision was taken jointly, due to a 10th day of pension protests next Tuesday. The trip to Paris and Bordeaux had been due to begin on Sunday, but France saw some of the worst violence on Thursday since demonstrations began in January. Buckingham Palace said the delay was due to the "situation in France". The UK government added the decision had been "taken with the consent of all parties, after the President of France asked the British Government to postpone the visit". President Emmanuel Macron spoke to the King on Friday morning, the Elysée Palace said, adding the state visit would be rescheduled as soon as possible, "so that his majesty will be welcomed in conditions which correspond to our friendly relationship". France's pension protests made the trip impossible. Several French cities saw violence on the sidelines of Thursday's largely peaceful protests that attracted more than a million people. For much of Friday morning, French officials had sought to reassure the public that the state visit, from 26 to 29 March, would take place and that security was in place. Some UK journalists had already travelled to Paris to cover the event.

A lawyer in Cannes who stole €400,000 from about a dozen clients has been banned from practising for five years and handed a €3,000 fine and a two-year suspended prison sentence. The 70-year-old had taken money from escrow accounts, where clients' funds were held in trust, in order to pay her debts including overdue social security payments. A court in Grasse convicted her of breach of trust and forgery. Prosecutors said the sentence was lenient because the lawyer had admitted guilt and repaid almost all of the money. A separate hearing will be held in June to determine the level of damages she must pay to her victims.

Yesterday's nationwide day of strike action may be over, but there remains severe disruption to public transport around Antibes as bus drivers working for Envibus blockaded their depot in the early hours of Friday morning. No vehicles have been able to leave the depot since, as workers continue their protest against the French pension reforms. Union reps are due to meet management this afternoon, after which they will decide whether to continue with the strike action or call it off.

Meanwhile, French trade unions have called for a new day of nationwide strikes and protests next Tuesday. In a joint statement, trade unions blamed the government for the "explosive situation" in the country and called on workers to continue protesting against president Emmanuel Macron's pension reform. Tuesday's strike will be the tenth since the start of walkouts in protest against pension reform in France.

A scooter rider has been taken to hospital with serious injuries after an accident in Fayence. Paramedics were called out and traffic was cut off in both directions on the Route de Fréjus. The exact circumstances of the accident are still not clear.

A new study shows the Alpes-Maritimes and the Var are among the most wooded departments in France. 65% of the surface area of both departments is woodland, according to the French forestry institute, IGN. That's more than double the national average of 31%.

Elsewhere in France, dozens of departments in the north and west have been placed on alert for strong winds and storms. Météo France said storms are expected to last throughout the day and into Saturday morning. It issued a yellow warning, which is the third-highest alert level and means to be vigilant. The alert covers most of the departments along the English Channel and the coast of Brittany, where winds are expected to gust up to 90 kilometres per hour.

And 15 victims of the 14 July 2016 terror attack in Nice are taking part in a diving experiment to relieve the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. The clinical study is being organised by doctors at Nice university hospital with the hope of better understanding how shallow scuba diving can have a soothing effect on stress. The experiment is taking place over 10 days at the Jean Médecin municipal swimming pool in Nice, under the supervision of experienced divers. It was inspired by a similar initiative in Guadeloupe for 36 survivors of the November 2015 Paris terror attacks. The volunteers have already tried a range of other treatments, including hypnosis and consultations with psychiatrists, to deal with the trauma of the Promenade des Anglais attack.

BUSINESS

The first appearance in Congress for TikTok’s CEO Shou Zi Chew stretched more than five hours, with contentious questioning targeting the app’s relationship with China and protections for its youngest users. Chew’s appearance comes at a pivotal time for TikTok, which is facing bipartisan fire after experiencing a meteoric rise in popularity in recent years. The company is owned by Chinese firm ByteDance, raising concerns about China’s influence over the app – criticisms Chew repeatedly tried to resist throughout the hearing.
He defended TikTok’s privacy practices, stating they are are in line with those of other social media platforms, adding that in many cases the app collects less data than its peers.

Just 1% of the estimated £1.1bn lost from the British government’s Covid business support programme in England as a result of fraud and error has been recovered so far, the public spending watchdog has said in a report urging ministers to learn lessons from the scheme. The “overwhelming majority” of fraud and error occurred during the initial incarnation of the grant scheme launched in March 2020, which did not require prepayment checks, the National Audit Office (NAO) said in its report on the rushed-through efforts.

SPORT

Football - Lionel Messi scored his 800th top-level goal as Argentina beat Panama 2-0 in their first match since winning the World Cup. The 35-year-old Paris St-Germain forward becomes the second player to reach the milestone after Cristiano Ronaldo. Messi's tally includes 672 goals over 17 seasons for Barcelona and 29 for PSG. He also has 99 international goals, with two coming in the World Cup final.

Tennis - Ukraine's Marta Kostyuk refused to shake hands with Anastasia Potapova after she was beaten by the Russian at the Miami Open. Their two countries are at war after Russia invaded Ukraine last year. Potapova won the second-round encounter 6-1 6-3. Kostyuk has previously refused to shake hands with Russia's Varvara Gracheva and Belarusian Victoria Azarenka. Belarus has been a key ally of Russia in the war against Ukraine. After losing to world number 26 Potapova, Kostyuk said there had been no response from the WTA about a request from Ukrainian players to meet.

Meanwhile it's been confirmed that Rafael Nadal will play at the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters next month. The Spaniard has won in Monte-Carlo 11 times and is making his comeback after recovering from injury. 

New safeguarding standards to protect athletes from abuse and harassment have been issued by the Gymnastics Ethics Foundation. The sport's international investigations agency has created the standards to see "impactful action" before the 2024 and 2028 Olympics. The framework is designed to protect whistleblowers and abuse survivors. It is also aiming to investigate complaints, improve governance and implement better ways to report abuse. The GEF was set up in January 2019 by the FIG, gymnastics' world governing body, following an abuse case in the United States. In recent years there have been more athletes reporting physical and psychological abuse from countries such as Britain and Canada.

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