Evening Update Thursday 18th May 2023

A court in Nice has upheld a ban on demonstrations and protests around the Cannes film festival. A group of lawyers and magistrates had tried to have the ban overturned, arguing that it was an attack on freedom of expression. The ban on demonstrations was set out in a decree by the Alpes-Maritimes préfecture and applies to a defined perimeter around the Palais des Festivals and the Croisette during the film festival. The court ruled yesterday that the measure was legal as it was clearly defined and for a restricted period of time. It came into force on Tuesday, the opening day of the 76th edition of the Cannes Film Festival. In a separate case, France's Council of State is expected to rule shortly on the legality of the use of drones by security forces during the film festival.

France's National Assembly has voted to ban smoking in woods and forests throughout the country during times of heightened forest fire risk. The measure is part of a broader law on preventing fires. The smoking ban applies within a 200-metre radius of all wooded areas. Discarded cigarette butts are a frequent cause of forest fires. The new law comes with criminal sanctions including up to 10 years in prison and a €150,000 fine if a smoker is found to be responsible for a fire in which people are killed or injured.

Meanwhile, a large part of the Vaucluse department has been placed on a heightened drought alert, with conditions said to be the worst seen in 150 years. Several river basins in the department had already been on alert since mid-April due to a rainfall deficit. The Vaucluse préfecture said this was one of the driest periods observed in the region since 1870. As summer approaches, France is again facing the threat of serious drought. Several departments in the south of the country have already imposed restrictions on the use of 
water.

France's border police has begun a recruitment drive as it looks to reinforce its presence at Nice airport. Successful candidates will be in charge of checking passengers' travel documents such as passports and visas. It comes as the airport prepares for a busy summer, and a big influx of foreign visitors for the Rugby World Cup in September - and with the 2024 Olympic Games fast approaching. Applicants must have French citizenship and a clean criminal record.

Meanwhile, the City of Nice is making plans to build a fan zone for rugby supporters to watch the World Cup this September. The fan zone, in the Albert Ier gardens in the centre of Nice, will have a capacity for 9,000 people, with free access throughout the length of the tournament and all the matches shown on giant screens.

BUSINESS

Nike may have misclassified thousands of temporary office workers and faces potential tax fines of more than $530m, according to documents obtained by the Guardian. The sporting goods company employs more than 79,000 people worldwide and like many large corporations relies on an army of independent contractors to do much of the work, including business consulting, T-shirt graphics, photography and event planning. According to independent reports compiled for the company, Nike management’s handling of independent contractors has left it open to potentially huge fines from tax authorities and the possibility of class action lawsuits.

The top five executives at the US’s largest companies have amassed close to $9bn in tax-free retirement saving accounts while many of their employees have struggled to set aside any funds for retirement, according to a new report released on Thursday. The report from the Institute for Policy Studies and Jobs With Justice found the top five executives at S&P 500 firms held a combined $8.9bn in special tax-deferred accounts at the end of 2021. Income taxes will be due on this compensation when they withdraw the funds, but in the meantime, they benefit from the tax-free compounding of investment returns. These so-called “top hat” plans allow unlimited tax-deferred retirement while ordinary workers face strict limits on their 401(k) retirement plan contributions.

British chancellor Jeremy Hunt has said that the "default" location for workers should be in the office unless there is a good reason to work from home. Jeremy Hunt said while working remotely had produced "exciting opportunities", he was worried about "the loss of creativity" when it is permanent. Flexible working has become the norm for many workers since the pandemic. But there has been a split across different sectors since lockdown restrictions have been eased. Some firms told their staff they needed to return to the workplace, while others opted for so-called "hybrid" working patterns, where employees could come in to offices on certain days and work remotely on others. Other businesses allowed workers to do their jobs from home on a permanent basis. The most recent official figures suggest the majority of people - 63.9% - never work from home, while 21.4% work from the office and remotely. Just 7.8% of workers were based at home permanently, the survey found.

Also in the UK, BT has revealed plans to significantly reduce the number of people working for the telecoms group as part of efforts to cut costs and bolster profitability. While outlining annual results, the company said it saw its "total labour resource" being reduced from 130,000 to between 75,000 and 90,000 by the end of the decade. It said the numbers affected - 55,000 at the top estimate - included its own employees and third-party contractors.

SPORT

Tennis - Nick Kyrgios will miss the French Open due to a foot injury sustained during the theft of his car. Earlier this month the Wimbledon finalist’s mother was held up at gunpoint by a masked man at the family’s Canberra house and Kyrgios’s Tesla was stolen. A man was arrested in Canberra soon after the robbery, with Kyrgios assisting police by using an app on his phone to locate the car. Kyrgios cannot remember how the injury had happened but suggested he may have hurt himself while rushing through his house after hearing his mother in distress during the incident.

Football - Brentford striker Ivan Toney has been banned from football for eight months after he accepted breaking Football Association betting rules. Toney has also been charged £50,000 and warned about his future conduct for 232 breaches of the FA's betting rules. His suspension starts immediately, but the 27-year-old can return to training with Brentford four months before it ends on 17 September. He will not be allowed to play again until 17 January, 2024.

And Coventry City found a way past Middlesbrough, scoring 1-0 in the semi-final second leg to reach the Championship play-off final and keep alive the Sky Blues' hopes of a Premier League return. They will face Luton Town in the showpiece decider at Wembley on Saturday, 27 May.

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