Evening Update Tuesday 24th January 2023

Tourism representatives from the Côte d'Azur have flown to the US this week with the hope of drumming up trade ahead of the summer travel season. They'll be meeting tour operators, travel agencies and the press to sell the image of the Côte d'Azur tourism to the lucrative American market. American tourism started to bounce back from the coronavirus pandemic last summer - and the Côte d'Azur regional tourism committee is determined to make this summer even better. American tourists on the Riviera generally come from the US's east coast, mainly around New York, around July and August. It's an important market in terms of revenue: the average American tourist on the Riviera spends €1,000 during their stay, which is typically in the region of four to five nights. This summer, three airlines are offering direct flights from America to Nice. Delta's daily flight from New York JFK resumes in late March. La Compagnie will fly five times a week from Newark, starting in mid-April, and United Airlines' daily flight to and from JFK begins again in May.

A family of four in Vence are being treated in hospital for carbon monoxide poisoning. Firefighters were called out to a property on Chemin Saint Donad at about 11pm last night. On arrival they found two adults and two teenagers unconscious. One of the family members had managed to alert the emergency services and open the front door to their home just in time before passing out. All four of them were taken to Pasteur hospital in Nice. Carbon monoxide poisoning causes an average of 100 deaths each year in France - and can be fatal within minutes of exposure. Symptoms include headaches, nausea and dizziness. It's important to ventilate homes daily, even in cold weather.

Freezing temperatures and heavy rain overnight have caused difficult driving conditions inland in parts of the Var today. Several collisions were reported on roads around Saint-Maximin including on the RD35 where a bus carrying no passengers crashed into another vehicle. Meanwhile, a jack-knifed lorry blocked the N7 in Saint-Maximin.

Meanwhile, the Mercantour's ski resorts are back on avalanche alert.  Météo France has the area classified as high risk - level 4 out of 5 - after 40cm of fresh snow fell at Isola 2000 yesterday.

A new report from the Council of Europe says Monaco's measures against money laundering are inadequate. The study, based on several months of evaluation by anti-money laundering experts, says significant improvements are required in Monaco’s supervisory activities of financial institutions, private banks and real estate agents. It describes the principality as a "prime target" for illicit cross-border financial flows.  The principality is due to enter a one-year observation phase by the international watchdog the Financial Action Task Force, during which time it is expected to fix the deficiencies set out in the report. If it doesn't do so by next year, Monaco risks being put back on the OECD's "grey list" of uncooperative tax havens, alongside the likes of Albania, Barbados, Gibraltar and Panama. Monaco was on the grey list until it was removed in 2009. The Monegasque government said it took note of the report's recommendations and was determined to implement them quickly. Monaco's finance minister said several measures had already been taken to strengthen its systems - with more to follow in the coming months - and there's confidence that the deadline will be met.

Parts of the Riviera are suffering from a severe shortage of paediatricians. This winter's triple whammy of flu, bronchiolitis and Covid means the doctors who are practising in these medical deserts are overwhelmed. Some parents around Menton, Roquebrune-Cap-Martin and Beausoleil are facing long waits for a doctor's appointment for their child. For urgent care, La Palmosa hospital has no dedicated paediatric ward - and some parents are having to turn to Princess Grace hospital in Monaco for medical assistance. In Roquebrune, the last two practising paediatricians say they're working 12-hour days and having to turn some children away. The phone rings non-stop from 7.00 every morning. A third paediatrician in the town retired last summer at the age of 69, but he still volunteers some of his time to help clear the backlog. Newly trained paediatricians are in short supply - and many of the students who undergo an internship on the Riviera often go on to set up practice in other cities instead.

Public transport users around Grasse have voiced their complaints about the local bus network, which was taken over by a new operator in the new year. Passengers have taken to social media with a wide range of grievances ranging from buses running late, early, or not at all, taking unusual detours or being overcrowded. An online petition against the changes has attracted more than 300 signatures so far. Spanish firm Moventis won the 10-year contract to provide all the local routes around Grasse and the arrière-pays. Its director says there have been some inevitable teething problems during the change of operator. It says it welcomes feedback on its Facebook page. But the long term goal remains to improve the local public transport network, keep fares affordable and improve the public transport offer for school pupils. Between winning the contract and taking over, the new operator had just two months to prepare itself. 45 new all-electric buses have entered service, complete with a GPS system so their location can be tracked in real time.

Dressed in aprons and brandishing baguettes, hundreds of bakers demonstrated in the streets of Paris yesterday against the soaring cost of energy and raw materials. Meanwhile, here in the south of France, a trade union representing energy workers has lent its support to the cause, by offering to tamper with bakers' electricity and gas meters. The CGT Energie branch in Marseille has called on its members, who work for energy firms, to visit artisan bakers and switch their meters over so that they permanently benefit from the off-peak, reduced rate, potentially saving more than half on their bills. The union itself describes the move as "completely illegal" - but morally justifiable. It hasn't ruled out doing the same for other craftspeople and independent businesses.

The city of Nice says it will plant 1,500 new trees as part of its plan to extend the green promenade along the Paillon. Works are currently under way, including the demolition of the Acropolis convention centre, to make way for another eight hectares of green space. Eucalyptus, magnolia, pine and oak trees are among those chosen by the city to capture as much CO2 as possible and help avoid the problem of heat islands in the city centre. The first of the new trees will be planted next year.

Toulon is working on plans to create a major new open-air music festival for summer 2024 attracting upwards of 10,000 concert-goers. Toulon Métropole, the publicly owned firm which organises events and congresses in the city, hopes to attract big international music acts to the Var city. Exact dates and details aren’t clear at this early stage - although the festival would likely be staggered over three or four separate dates in the summer next year, in the city centre itself, in the vicinity of the Zénith concert venue.

And a jobseeker who stole cash from a van in Roquebrune-sur-Argens has been quickly identified by police - after he accidentally left a copy of his CV behind in the vehicle. The 20-year-old made off with €1,000 from a tradesman's van last week. In the rush to leave the scene of the crime, his resumé appears to have fallen out of his pocket. Police had no trouble identifying the thief, his address, not to mention his education, work history and hobbies. During questioning he reportedly confessed to five other similar thefts in the area over Christmas and the New Year. The man was given a one-year prison sentence - six months of which are suspended.

BUSINESS

Microsoft has announced a multi-year, multibillion dollar investment in artificial intelligence (AI) as it extends its partnership with OpenAI. OpenAI is the creator of popular chatbot ChatGPT. In 2019 Microsoft invested $1bn in the company, founded by Elon Musk and tech investor Sam Altman. The Windows and Xbox maker plans up to 10,000 redundancies, but said it would still hire in key strategic areas. Speculation about the potential misuse of the technology, from helping students cheat in exams to writing malware, has gone hand in hand with suggestions that it has the potential to revolutionise many industries, including search.

It has been almost a year since workers at an Amazon warehouse in New York voted to start the company's first-ever labour union in the US - an historic labour victory that won global attention. But the fight remains unfinished. Amazon has been battling the outcome of the election in legal actions. Efforts to organise workers at other warehouses, including one just across the street, have failed. Negotiations with the company over a labour contract for the warehouse workers have yet to start - and, when they do, are expected to take years. US regulators have finally certified the victory of the Amazon Labor Union at JFK8, the warehouse on Staten Island that employs roughly 8,000 people. Amazon, which has argued that regulators unfairly tilted the result of the election against the company, plans to appeal. This week the deadline it was facing was extended two more weeks.

Government borrowing in tne UK hit a new high in December, driven by the cost of supporting households with their energy bills and high debt interest costs. Borrowing, the difference between spending and tax income, was £27.4bn, a rise of £16.7bn on December 2021. Interest on government debt hit £17.3bn, more than double what it was a year earlier. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said inflation was the main factor behind the rise in borrowing. While gas prices have begun to come down, the typical UK energy bill is still almost twice what it was before Russia invaded Ukraine.

SPORT

Football - Chelsea have reportedly not given up hope of signing Benfica and Argentina midfielder Enzo Fernandez, 22, in the January transfer window after having bids rejected at the start of the month. Graham Potter's side may also return with an improved bid for Brighton and Ecuador midfielder Moises Caicedo, 21, with the Seagulls looking for potential replacements.

Meanwhile, it's reported that Everton have held talks with former Leeds boss Marcelo Bielsa to replace Frank Lampard as manager. Former Everton stars Wayne Rooney, now manager of DC United, and Duncan Ferguson are also said to be on the list, along with West Ham boss David Moyes, who managed the Toffees between 2002 and 2013.

Tennis - Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina swept past Jelena Ostapenko to reach her first Australian Open semi-final. Rybakina fired 11 aces and 24 winners as she claimed a dominant 6-2 6-4 victory over Latvia's Ostapenko. The Kazakh wrapped up victory in one hour and 19 minutes following a lengthy rain delay. Despite earning the most prestigious title of her career with her surprise success at Wimbledon, Rybakina dropped to 25th in the world - where she remains - because ranking points were not awarded at the grass court major.

Formula One - Mercedes boss Toto Wolff says the team are likely to be open to allowing newly recruited reserve driver Mick Schumacher to leave if an opportunity for a permanent Formula 1 seat arises elsewhere. Schumacher, the son of seven-time Formula 1 world champion Michael, signed up as Mercedes reserve for the 2023 campaign after being released by Haas following his first two seasons in the sport. With Mercedes' driver line-up of Lewis Hamilton and George Russell appearing to be set for the next few seasons, the reality is that Schumacher's most likely return to the grid will come away from the team.

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