Evening Update Monday 5th December 2022

Météo France has issued a yellow alert for mountain ranges in the Alpes-Maritimes due to an increased avalanche risk. There was ample snow on the massifs of the Côte d'Azur this weekend - good news for skiers, but forecasters say the avalanche risk is particularly high in the Mercantour. The yellow alert is in place until at least midnight tonight.

The mayor of Nice and France's Jewish Council, the CRIF, have condemned the appearance of Nazi and anti-Semitic graffiti in the city centre over the weekend. The tags were discovered in the Old Town on Saturday morning and were quickly removed by municipal street cleaners. Christian Estrosi said police were working with CCTV images to identify those responsible. The CRIF described the vandalism as "despicable" and thanked the municipal workers for their quick actions.

The Nice metropolitan area has set up a telephone helpline for anyone with questions about the energy crisis and the risk of power cuts this winter. The hotline entered service today and is intended to answer residents' questions, such as how people will be notified about potential power outages and who could be affected. Nice city hall says the risk of power cuts this winter is still hypothetical. The dedicated phone line can be reached by calling 04 97 13 56 00. 

A nationwide amnesty across France has resulted in more than 4,500 weapons being handed in to police in the Alpes-Maritimes and the Var. The week-long operation made it possible for anyone to hand in an inherited, unregistered or found weapon without any questions asked. According to the interior ministry, there are as many as two million undeclared weapons in France. In the Alpes-Maritimes, police collected just over 2,000 firearms and 60,000 rounds of ammunition in just a week. In the Var, 2,500 weapons were recovered.

More details have emerged about the Riviera finale of the Tour de France in 2024. Last week it was announced that the famous cycling race would finish on the Promenade des Anglais in Nice, in a break from the usual Champs-Elysées tradition, to alleviate the pressure on police officers in the capital, which is staging the Olympics. Now it's been confirmed that the final day of the Tour de France action will be a time trial between Monaco and Nice, on Sunday 21st July 2024. The last time Monaco hosted a stage of the race was the Grand Départ in 2009. The exact route isn't yet clear, but it won't be a leisurely cycle along the coast - there will be 35 kilometres in total including plenty of climbs.

As train services gradually return to normal across France following strike action last weekend, there are worries that more walkouts could follow around Christmas time. France's transport minister, Clément Beaune, has appealed to SNCF workers' "collective responsibility" to avoid disrupting people's end-of-year holiday travel plans. SNCF management and unions are due to meet again later this week and December could be a hectic month for rail travel. The SNCF employs 10,000 train conductors, whose job is to ensure passengers' safety on board. Without them, trains cannot run.

A chain of French opticians is to offer online consultations in areas where it is difficult to get an appointment with an eye doctor. Alain Afflelou has trialled the scheme in five of its stores and plans to add 25 more locations in the coming months.  Participating shops will be fitted with a consultation room, including equipment to allow doctors to detect issues such as cataracts.

The village of Gassin in the Var has again been named one of the most beautiful in France. With its spectacular views over the Gulf of Saint-Tropez, Gassin is part of a select club of 170 villages around the country to earn the title. Anonymous inspectors tour the length and breadth of France, visiting candidate villages unannounced, before the latest results are announced. Their assessment is based on 30 criteria including urban planning, heritage, architecture and the environment. Gassin has been on the list of most beautiful villages since 1994.

This year’s Telethon ended with a record 78 million euros raised - including more than 330,000 euros in the Var and nearly 390,000 euros in the Alpes-Maritimes. Among the fundraising initiatives was a 30-hour pizza-baking marathon in Menton. A team of a dozen pizza chefs set up an outdoor stall, despite the wind and rain, and sold 264 pizzas to raise money for the charity, raising more than €2,500. They also handed out free pizzas to the local homeless.

A study has claimed to have found the most festive shopping town on the Côte d'Azur. The winner is Cannes, with 8.7 shops selling Christmas gifts per 1,000 inhabitants. That's ahead of Paris on 6.7 and neighbouring Antibes on 5.3. The study, by a Toulouse-based geomarketing start-up, analysed official Insee data for thousands of retail outlets in major cities. It added up the number of shops registered as selling festive goods including food, books, games, audiovisual equipment and cosmetics, as well as jewellers and wine merchants. Nice has 1,230 shops selling Christmas goods, but on a per inhabitant basis this worked out to be much lower than Cannes. An earlier study by the same start-up showed Cannes also had one of the highest densities of restaurants in France - with one for every 68 residents.

It's become something of an annual tradition in the Var: several dozen Harley Davidson bikers came together in Saint-Tropez this weekend for a mass in memory of the late French rocker Johnny Hallyday. Bikers from several riding clubs in the region paid tribute to their idol for the fourth consecutive year, in a ceremony led by the local priest, which featured an unusual mix of Johnny Hallyday songs, prayers and poetry recitals. Dressed in black leather jackets, the worshippers all left their bikes at home because of the poor weather.

And two cats have thrown into doubt the reliability of the election for a new leader for France's right-wing Republican party. Local MP Éric Ciotti is in the lead following this weekend's first round of internal elections for the party's presidency. The second round is next Sunday. Participation stood at about 72% - but that included Kalli and Zizou, two cats belonging to a journalist at the Journal du Dimanche. He'd used a flaw in the Republican party's voter registration system to get the pair registered on the electoral list. They even have their own membership cards as fully paid-up party members. And they benefited from a discount for joining the party as a couple. It's an echo of what was called the Douglas affair - when a dog called Douglas was able to vote for the Republicans in the Alpes-Maritimes last December.

BUSINESS

European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen has said the EU must address "distortions" created by a $430bn US plan to incentivise climate-friendly technologies. Some EU members have criticised the US Inflation Reduction Act, raising fears of a trade war. There are concerns that tax breaks may lure away EU businesses and disadvantage European companies. Under the Act, American consumers will get incentives to purchase new and second-hand electric cars, to warm their homes with heat pumps and even to cook their food using electric induction. US President Joe Biden has called it the most "aggressive action" his country has taken to tackle the climate crisis. But European allies perceive it as anti-competitive and a threat to European jobs, especially in the energy and auto sectors.

One of the UK's largest accountancy firms will close most of its offices over Christmas and New Year for the first time to save on energy bills. PwC, which employs about 24,000 people, will shut its main London office from 23 December to 3 January, as well as some smaller sites. Its chairman Kevin Ellis said having all offices open over the festive period "doesn't make sense at a time of energy scarcity".

Meanwhile, a group representing British pub owners has warned that many of them will have to close for good without more energy bill support. Industry experts say the economic shocks of COVID, Brexit and the war in Ukraine have put sustained pressure on businesses, especially those in the entertainment sector - and now the energy crisis may prove the tipping point. In a new report by Frontier Economics, produced for the British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA), calculations showed energy bills returning to their regular rate after the government's bill relief scheme ends in March would put pubs and brewers at a loss of 20% on average. It showed energy costs are the biggest threat to their viability and "would be even more lethal" when the relief scheme ends. This comes on top of cost inflation across other parts of their businesses, including on food and drink, key commodities and wages.

SPORT

Cricket - England have pulled off one of their greatest victories with a 74-run win over Pakistan in the first Test. With the sun dropping at the end of a tension-filled final day, England took the last wicket with only minutes of light remaining. This is an England win that will be remembered for a long time, a fitting way to mark their first Test in Pakistan for 17 years. Pakistan were defiant throughout. There is only a three-day gap to the second Test on Friday, when England will have the chance to secure the series.

Rugby Union - Wayne Pivac has left his position as Wales head coach and will be replaced by his predecessor Warren Gatland. Gatland will take charge of next year's Six Nations and Rugby World Cup, and potentially the 2027 tournament. The decision follows a Welsh Rugby Union review into a dismal autumn campaign, which included a first loss to Georgia. Pivac took over from fellow New Zealander Gatland after the 2019 Rugby World Cup. But during the 60-year-old's final year in charge, Wales only won three out of 12 games. Gatland is Wales' most successful and longest-serving coach, having won three Grand Slams during his 12-year reign.

Football - The Brazilian footballing great Pelé has not been moved to palliative care, one of his daughters has said, downplaying reports that he was in end-of-life care after the 82-year-old was hospitalised last week to re-evaluate his treatment for colon cancer. One of the greatest players of all time, Pelé had a tumour removed from his colon in September 2021 and has been receiving hospital care on a regular basis. A newspaper reported on Saturday that he was under palliative care after chemotherapy stopped having the expected results. Pelé’s doctors have not confirmed that information and his daughter, Flavia Nascimento, said the report was wide of the mark.

WORLD CUP

Raheem Sterling is heading back to the UK from England's World Cup camp after armed intruders broke into his home while his family were inside. Sterling missed England's 3-0 win over Senegal in the last 16 after being ruled out of the team due to a "family matter" shortly before kick-off, having started two of the Three Lions' three games at the World Cup so far. It is understood Sterling wanted to get home as soon as he was alerted to the break-in, having been very shaken and concerned for the wellbeing of his children. Manager Gareth Southgate confirmed Sterling is heading back to the UK but it is understood the player could return to Qatar if the circumstances are right. England face France in their World Cup quarter final on Saturday.

Tonight, Brazil and South Korea fight for a place in the quarter finals, with kick off at 8pm French time. Tomorrow, Morocco play Spain with a 4pm kickoff and Portugal will look to secure their place in the quarter finals, playing Switzerland at 8pm.

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