Evening Update Thursday 30th March 2023

The Alpes-Maritimes préfecture has lifted its restrictions on refilling at petrol stations, as supply problems have eased. The 30-litre limit for individuals - and 120-litre limit for trucks - is no longer in place.  One petrol station in the department remains reserved for priority users - the Total at Parc Impérial in Nice.

Meanwhile, petrol stations in Ventimiglia have seen a sharp rise in the number of French customers crossing the border to fill up on fuel in recent weeks. Several filling stations over the Italian border have been ordering in extra reserves of petrol to cope with the increased demand, especially on Fridays which is market day in Ventimiglia. Petrol prices in the Italian border towns are typically about 10 cents per litre lower than in France.

French president Emmanuel Macron is visiting the Hautes-Alpes today, where he's due to present France's "water plan" - a range of measures aimed at better managing water and limiting the effects of drought. Measures due to be announced include a fight against water waste - such as repairing leaks in the mains water supply - and encouraging households and businesses to collect rainwater to flush toilets. Specific measures for France's water-intensive agriculture industry are also expected. The Alpes-Maritimes has been on drought alert since 13 March. Property-owners are banned from filling up their swimming pool, with a potential fine of €1,500.

A man's been arrested on suspicion of being involved in the vandalism against the offices of local MP and Les Républicains leader Eric Ciotti. The office's windows on Nice port were smashed on the night of 18 March, amid growing tension over the government's use of Article 49.3 to push through French pension reforms without a full vote in parliament. The arrest was made yesterday and the suspect is due to appear before a judge today.

An 80-year-old woman is recovering in hospital after she lost control of her car and plunged 10 metres down a ravine in the Gulf of Saint-Tropez. The accident happened yesterday afternoon around 4pm in Cavalaire in the Var. She was taken to hospital suffering minor injuries.

Six children, four of whom are under the age of 13, have been arrested in connection with a savage attack on two 15-year-old girls at Nice ice rink last November. Given their very young age, the suspects must undergo a pscyhiatric examination before the public prosecutor can decide what measures should be taken against them. The ice rink had been the scene of violent clashes a year earlier, in October 2021, between rival gangs.

French taxi drivers will be allowed to pick up passengers in Monaco again, after the principality announced changes to the rules on cross-border taxis and private hire cars. Until now, French-registered taxis could enter Monaco to drop a passenger off, but then had to leave the principality empty - and vice-versa for Monegasque taxis crossing the border into France. The rule change in Monaco, on 1st April, means taxis and private hire cars licensed in the Alpes-Maritimes or the Var can buy a €600 sticker for their windscreen, granting them the right to pick up a customer in Monaco. Only 320 stickers will be available. It only applies to rides booked in advance - a French taxi cannot stop if it's hailed in the street while in Monaco. The new rules apply for a seven-month trial period. Monaco is now asking France to reciprocate the rules, allowing a defined number of Monegasque taxi drivers to be able to pick up passengers at Nice airport, for example.

And three lycées in Cannes have made the top five of the best in the Alpes-Maritimes in a new league table based on last year's baccalauréat results. The magazine L'Etudiant has published its annual ranking. The Institut Saint-Joseph-Carnoles in Roquebrune-Cap-Martin came top in the department, with a 99% pass rate. Lycée Sainte-Marie, Lycée Stanislas and Lycée Carnot - all three in Cannes - were in the top five, along with the Lycée Internationale in Valbonne.

BUSINESS

Former Starbucks chief executive, Howard Schultz, has denied union busting in his most pointed public comments yet on the ongoing dispute between labour unions and the coffee giant in the US. Labour officials have repeatedly found that the firm has broken federal laws in its response, including wrongfully firing workers. Mr Schultz, who stepped down as boss this month, was called to appear before Congress to answer for the findings.
He "unequivocally" denied the claims. The two-hour hearing in Washington comes more than a year after baristas at a Starbucks coffee shop in Buffalo voted to form a union, a step since taken by more than 270 stores, representing 7,000 people. Starbucks has vigorously opposed the campaign, which has sparked a debate about inequality and the workings of capitalism and threatened to tarnish the firm's reputation as a progressive employer.

An Indian appeals court has upheld a $160m fine slapped on Google by the country's antitrust regulator in a case related to Android's market dominance. The National Company Law Appellate Tribunal (NCLAT) said the Competition Commission of India's (CCI) findings were correct and Google was liable to pay the fine. More than 95% of Indian smartphones use the Android system. In October, the CCI accused Google of exploiting its dominant position and imposed the fine for "unfair" business practices. It also asked Google to make several changes to the Android ecosystem. This included not forcing manufacturers to pre-install the entire suite of Google apps and allowing users to choose their default search engine. The Android-related inquiry was started in 2019, following complaints by consumers of Android smartphones. The case was similar to the one Google faced in Europe, where regulators imposed a $5bn fine on the company, saying it used its Android operating system to gain unfair advantage in the market.

SPORT

Lewis Hamilton says "it could take a long time" before Mercedes can compete again with Red Bull. Mercedes have started a process of redesigning their car having started a second consecutive season off the pace. Red Bull have dominated the start of the season, taking two one-two finishes in the first two races, and are clear favourites again at this weekend's Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne. Hamilton opened up on his struggles with the Mercedes car and how he feels uncomfortable with the positioning of the cockpit.

Tottenham Hotspur managing director Fabio Paratici may have to step away from his role after Fifa extended his suspension "to have worldwide effect". Paratici was given a 30-month ban from Italian football in January after his former club Juventus were found guilty of false accounting. The 50-year-old was sporting director and managing director at Juve before joining Tottenham in June 2021. Spurs said they were "urgently seeking further clarification from Fifa". The Premier League club said in a statement that the decision had been taken "with no advance notice to any of the parties involved". Paratici and Juventus have both appealed against Fifa's ruling. The extension of the ban coincides with Tottenham's search for a new manager following the departure of Antonio Conte. Conte left Spurs on Sunday with the club fourth in the Premier League but having been knocked out of the Champions League and FA Cup in recent weeks.

A decision on whether to let Russian and Belarusian athletes compete at the Paris Olympics next year has been postponed. Competitors from both countries have been banned since Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022. But the International Olympic Committee (IOC) announced a softening of its stance, recommending that Russian and Belarussian athletes be allowed to compete in international events as neutrals. Teams from Russia and Belarus are still banned, as are any athletes supporting the war or contracted to military or national security agencies.

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