Evening Update Thursday 1st February 2024

Farmers have taken part in a go-slow protest through the streets of Nice today as nationwide protests by the agriculture sector continue. A convoy of slow-moving tractors set off along the Route de Grenoble this morning, followed by a protest outside the MIN wholesale food market, before continuing along the Promenade des Anglais into the centre of Nice. Meanwhile, a group of farmers spent last night sleeping at the Le Capitou tolls on the A8 motorway in the Var, between Puget-sur-Argens and Le Muy, which they had blocked since Wednesday morning. Drivers on the Nice-bound carriageway have had to leave the motorway and follow diversions to avoid the blockade.

Meanwhile, teachers have also been out on strike today nationwide. Locally, demonstrations were held this morning in Marseille, Nice and Digne-les-Bains. Unions say the strike intends to send a warning to the government about working conditions and pay.

The first of February brings a number of small changes to day-to-day life in France. Among them, motorway tolls across France are rising today by up to 3% on average nationally, in line with inflation. Here on the Riviera, the increase by Vinci Autoroutes is 2.7%. The minimum fare that can be charged by a VTC private hire car goes up to €10.60. Electricity prices have increased today, as the price shield put in place during the energy crisis is gradually phased out. The average increase is in the region of 9%. Meanwhile, the Livret A - France's most-popular savings account - keeps its interest rate unchanged at 3%.

In other local news, four police officers have been injured during a patrol in the L'Ariane housing estate in Nice. They came under attack by a group of armed men wearing balaclavas. One of the injured officers may require surgery. Meanwhile, two people have been arrested after a routine police stop-and-search operation in the Les Moulins district of Nice. One of the men was found in possession of a loaded handgun. In a search of their homes, police also seized cocaine and cannabis resin.

A man has been seriously injured after losing control of his car in Bagnols-en-Forêt in the Var. Paramedics were called out to the Route du Muy yesterday evening. The driver, in his 30s, was trapped inside his car. Initial investigations suggest no other vehicles were involved in the accident. He's being treated in hospital in Nice.

A legal case against the mayor of Nice, Christian Estrosi, about comments he made about the Gaza conflict has been dropped by prosecutors in Nice - and will be taken up by prosecutors in Paris instead. The Nice to Gaza association filed a complaint in December after Estrosi claimed in a TV interview that the media had broadcast fake images of the suffering in Gaza. During an appearance on a France 3 television show, Estrosi said the media had shown images of a mother crying with a dead baby that he said was a plastic doll. He was repeating a claim made by an Israeli news outlet, which has since deleted its article after it was proved wrong by the fact-checking teams at several global news organisations including France 24. The Nice to Gaza association said Estrosi's comments about the Gaza conflict were "unacceptable" and "dehumanising". The Paris prosecutor's office will now be responsible for the investigation and any possible legal consequences.

Tributes have been paid to the former mayor of Brignoles, Jean Monnier, who died yesterday at the age of 91. He trained as a psychiatrist and general practitioner and was responsible for setting up the A&E department at Brignoles hospital before becoming involved in local politics during his retirement. Monnier was mayor of Brignoles from 1995 until 2001.

The first of 2,500 new trees due to line the Paillon promenade in Nice have been planted. Development work has begun on the new "urban forest" - an extra eight hectares of greenery around the site of the former Acropolis convention centre. The first trees were planted this week on the Boulevard Risso, near the Louis Nucera library. The project is due to be completed by the end of 2025.

And Menton has taken delivery of the first batch of oranges and lemons needed to create the sculptures for this month's citrus festival. In total, some 120 tonnes of citrus fruits are needed for the popular event. They travel 1,000km from Spain. The first delivery this week was slightly delayed by the ongoing farmers' protests around France. More than 200,000 visitors are expected at Menton's 90th lemon festival, which runs from 17th February to 3rd March.

BUSINESS

Oil and gas giant Shell has reported lower annual profits due to energy prices falling last year. Profits were $28.2bn in 2023. That's down from $39.9bn in 2022, which was the company's highest earnings in its 115-year history. Energy firms made record earnings when oil and gas prices soared in the aftermath of Russia's invasion of Ukraine amid fears of supply problems. Households bills have eased since 2022, but remain at a high level.

Elon Musk says Tesla will hold a shareholder vote on shifting the firm's legal home from the US state of Delaware to Texas. It comes after a judge in Delaware cancelled Musk's $55.8bn Tesla pay package. Many big firms, including Amazon, are registered in Delaware, which is known for having light taxation. The pay deal, which dates back to 2018, was the biggest to date in US corporate history, helping to make Mr Musk the richest person in the world. The lawsuit was filed by a shareholder, Richard Tornetta, who argued that it was excessive.

Meta chief executive Mark Zuckerberg - who runs Instagram and Facebook - has apologised to families who say their children had been harmed by social media, during a hearing in the US Senate. Zuckerberg and the bosses of TikTok, Snap, X and Discord were questioned for almost four hours by senators from both parties. Lawmakers wanted to know what they are doing to protect children online. Legislation is currently going through Congress which aims to hold social media companies to account for material posted on their platforms. The hearing was a rare opportunity for the US senators to question tech bosses.

SPORT

Formula One - Lewis Hamilton is set to join Ferrari next year and replace Carlos Sainz in a surprise move. Hamilton's current contract with Mercedes is due to expire at the end of 2025 but he will depart the team after this season and join Ferrari for the 2025 Formula 1 season. Charles Leclerc signed a new contract with Ferrari last week and will be Hamilton's team-mate at Ferrari from next year. Hamilton is a seven-time world champion and the most successful driver in F1 history with 103 wins and 104 pole positions. Michael Schumacher is the only other driver with seven world titles.

Football - The 2024 winter transfer window closes tonight at midnight, French time. Among the latest deals in the Premier League, Nottingham Forest have signed Portugal Under-20 striker Rodrigo Ribeiro on loan from Sporting Lisbon. The 18-year-old has joined Forest on loan for the remainder of the season, in a deal which could become permanent.

Brighton midfielder Mahmoud Dahoud has joined Bundesliga side Stuttgart on loan until the end of the season. The 28-year-old joined Albion in June 2023 from Borussia Dortmund and has made 14 appearances in all competitions for the club.

Cricket - England have named their squad for the Second Test against India which starts tomorrow. Off-spinner Shoaib Bashir will make his England debut. The 20-year-old replaces the injured Jack Leach, while James Anderson comes in for Mark Wood. Bashir first came to the attention of England captain Ben Stokes when a video of him bowling for Somerset was posted on Twitter. India's defeat in the first Test was only its fourth in 47 home matches. They have not lost the first two Tests in a home series since 2000.

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