Evening Update Thursday 21st March 2024

The Alpes-Maritimes is one of the departments in France with the sharpest rise in reported cases of racist, xenophobic and anti-religious crimes. That's according to a new report from France's interior ministry, based on figures from municipal and national police and gendarmes.
It found what it described as a "clear acceleration" in such crimes - up 32% last year, with 15,000 reported offences nationwide linked to ethnicity, nationality or religion. The Alpes-Maritimes had the third-highest number of reported racist crimes per capita last year, with Paris coming top. The majority of cases relate to what police describe as "provocations, insults and defamation", with people of African origin the most common victims. Meanwhile, earlier this year, the Council of Jewish Institutions in France warned of a sharp rise in the number of anti-Semitic acts recorded in France, in the context of the conflict in the Middle East, while SOS Racisme in Marseille warned that anti-Semitic and Islamophobic acts were on the rise.

Police with sniffer dogs were called into a secondary school in Nice yesterday to deal with what turned out to be a hoax bomb alert. The warning was sent from the hacked email account of a student at the Don Bosco lycée, threatening to blow the school up. 1,600 students and 200 staff were ordered to stay away from the school all day yesterday until explosives experts gave the all-clear.

A nurse in Marseille has gone on trial accused of defrauding the French health insurance system to the tune of more than €1.5 million. Prosecutors accuse the 67-year-old of wrongly billing 34 health insurance funds across France for more than 80,000 procedures that were never carried out. If found guilty, she faces up to three years in prison. A judgment is expected in mid-April.

A foul smell reported by residents in parts of Nice last month is back again. The unusual odour has been described in various ways as similar to sulphur, rotten eggs or burnt tyres. Some people have reported nausea, headaches, breathing problems and irritation to the eyes and throat. The north and east of the city are particularly affected.  The AtmoSud air quality watchdog says it is still investigating. The smell comes and goes too quickly to properly detect its source.

Meanwhile, the Alpes-Maritimes and Var have again been placed on a red alert for high levels of cypress pollen. The pollen is particularly allergenic and causes eye and nose irritation as well as difficulty breathing. Allergy sufferers are being advised to take any prescribed medication they have and try to limit their exposure. Winds and mild temperatures have contributed to the problem, with the alert likely to remain in place for several weeks.

About a quarter of Pony's shared bikes have returned to the streets of Nice, after they were all withdrawn as a safety precaution. Since yesterday, 200 manual push-bikes and 40 electric models are again available to hire. Hundreds more are still out of use as they are being individually checked. Pony recalled its entire fleet in Nice earlier this month because of concerns about a possible manufacturing defect in the battery.

After Air France announced three new summer routes from Nice earlier this week, it's the turn of its low-cost subsidiary Transavia to launch a new link to the Riviera. From mid-July, Transavia will fly twice a week from Hyères-Toulon airport to Algiers, with tickets going on sale next Tuesday. Transavia will also double the frequency of its link from Toulon to Paris Orly from the end of this month - from two flights a week to four. Meanwhile, easyJet has confirmed it will resume flights from Hyères-Toulon to Bordeaux and London Gatwick from mid-April.

And the clock is ticking for a gambler in Monaco who has yet to come forward and claim their €150,000 prize in the Quinté+. The lucky winner bought their ticket at a newsagents in the Fontvieille shopping centre last Thursday. French gambling organiser PMU says they have until mid-May to claim their prize - €150,235 to be precise.

BUSINESS

Taiwan’s central bank has raised interest rates unexpectedly. The Central Bank has startled the markets by lifting its key rate, from 1.875% to 2%. 25 out of 26 economists surveyed by Reuters expected rates would be held. Taiwan’s central bank says the “mild” rate hike is meant to suppress inflation expectations, as electricity prices are going up in April.

Meanwhile the Swiss franc has tumbled against the US dollar following Switzerland’s surprise interest rate cut today. The Swiss National Bank announced it is lowering its policy rate by 0.25 percentage points to 1.5%, from 1.75%. It makes the SNB the first major central bank to cut interest rates in the current cycle.

And the FTSE 100 in London has hit its highest level since last May. The index of blue-chip companies reached 7,824 points this morning.  Mining stocks are among the risers, as the prospect of three cuts to US interest rates this year should support the global economy and demand for raw materials. Shares in fashion retailer Next have jumped 4% to a record high, after it beat forecasts with a 5% rise in pre-tax profits last year.

SPORT

Football - A court has ruled that former Manchester City and Real Madrid forward Robinho must serve a nine-year rape sentence in his home country of Brazil. Robinho, 40, was found guilty by an Italian court in 2017 of taking part in the 2013 rape of a 22-year-old Albanian woman. He has been living in Brazil, which does not extradite its nationals. Judges ruled that he should serve his sentence in Brazil following a request from Italy. The former Brazil international, who has 100 caps for his country, was playing for AC Milan at the time of the crime.

Tennis - Andy Murray dragged his way through a drama-filled encounter against Matteo Berrettini to reach the second round of the Miami Open. The former world No 1 wrote on the court-side TV camera that there is 'life in the old dog yet' after pulling off an impressive comeback victory. Murray was facing the possibility of a first-round exit as he lost the opening set but he fought back to seal a 4-6 6-3 6-4 win. Berrettini, playing his first ATP Tour match since the US Open, suffered dizzy spells and came close to fainting on court in the heat. Andy Murray makes it through to a meeting with Tomas Martin Etcheverry.

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