Evening Update Wednesday 20th March 2024

Monaco is going ahead with plans to organise a firearms amnesty to encourage residents to turn in weapons and ammunition that they may have found or inherited. Announced at the start of this year, the date has now been set for the amnesty, which will run from 25th March to 5th April. It's possible to make an appointment with the public security services by emailing ppg@gouv.mc The operation is targeting weapons held illegally in people's homes - often due to an inheritance or a weapon being found and kept without the proper legal safeguards. 600 people in the principality own a firearms licence and there are 760 registered firearms in people's possession. Since 2021, Monegasque police have seized and destroyed more than 100 weapons during various raids and arrests.

The Var préfecture has ordered the immediate closure of an animal shelter following an investigation into claims of animal abuse. The 3A shelter in Luc-en-Provence has had its licence suspended. The refuge had been under investigation since last August, when a whistleblower reported it to the authorities. The shelter was issued with a formal notice last October requiring it to bring its operations into compliance with the law. Its owner reportedly refused a spot check last December. Gendarmes raided the animal shelter earlier this week and the animals have been taken into care by the Paris branch of animal welfare charity the SPA.

Meanwhile, Marineland in Antibes has announced it will resume its killer whale shows from the end of this month, while it awaits a court ruling brought by an animal welfare association. The One Voice anti-captivity charity has filed an appeal at a court in Aix-en-Provence calling for an independent review to be carried out into the health and wellbeing of three orcas at the water park. It has been reported for some time that Marineland is considering a possible transfer for the orcas to another water park. The potential move is on hold until at least April, pending the outcome of the animal welfare association's legal appeal.

And in other animal welfare news, an association has asked the mayor of Biot to ban a series of falconry shows as part of the Knights Templar medieval festival that takes place in the town on the first weekend in April. From 2028, wild animals - including birds of prey - will be banned from public performances in France, as part of a law passed in 2021 tackling animal abuse. A Paris-based association says the mayor of Biot should not wait until the 2028 deadline and should ban the displays from next year. It has presented the mayor with a petition signed by more than 18,000 people. The Knights Templar festival in Biot runs this year from 5th to 7th April.

There were 11 kilometres of traffic jams on the Italy-bound A8 motorway during this morning's rush hour after an accident involving four vehicles, which caused two of them to catch fire. The incident happened on the eastbound carriageway between Mougins and La Bocca at about 8.15. Thick black smoke from the fire could be seen for several kilometres. No serious injuries were reported. About 20 firefighters attended the scene and an investigation into what happened is under way.

A neighbourhood association representing residents in Nice old town says more needs to be done to tackle intolerable levels of noise pollution. Locals say that despite recent attempts to reduce traffic in Nice's historic centre, other sources of noise continue to damage their health and wellbeing. Noisy cafe terraces, street buskers, and late-night performances at the Théâtre de Verdure are among their complaints. The Saint-François-de-Paule neighbourhood association has considered installing its own decibel meters in strategic locations in the old town to gather evidence to present to Nice city council. Nice's deputy mayor Philippe Soussi says a balance needs to be found between residents' rights to peace and maintaining a vibrant neighbourhood for visitors. He says work has already been done to better regulate cafe terraces and noisy buskers.

BUSINESS

Inflation in the UK fell to 3.4% in February, down from 4% in January and edging closer to the Bank of England's target of 2%. The drop means the cost of living is rising at its slowest pace since September 2021, when it stood at 3.1%. Inflation, the rate at which prices rise over time, has been gradually falling since it hit 11.1% in October 2022, its highest rate for 40 years. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said food price inflation was the main reason for the drop. However, prices are not yet falling - they are just rising less quickly than they were previously.

Cross-Channel ferry operators will be required to pay their crew at least €11.65 an hour after France implemented a new minimum wage law aimed at preventing the exploitation of seafarers. The move comes two years after P&O Ferries caused outrage on both sides of the Channel by sacking almost 800 workers and replacing them with low-cost crew. An investigation by the Guardian and ITV News revealed that P&O’s replacement crew appeared to be paid average hourly rates of less than €6. The low rates have been achieved after P&O took advantage of legal loopholes that exempt paying the minimum wage to maritime workers employed by an overseas agency and working on foreign-registered ships in international waters. In response, France signed a decree yesterday that will force cross-Channel operators to pay their workers the French minimum wage of at least €11.65 an hour. The new law will restrict crew from working on ferries for longer than two weeks without a day off.

SPORT

Tennis - Aryna Sabalenka intends to play in the Miami Open following the death of her boyfriend, former ice hockey player Konstantin Koltsov. Koltsov, who represented Belarus at the 2002 and 2010 Winter Olympics, has died at the age of 42. Sabalenka is seeded second in Miami and due to enter the tournament at the second-round stage later this week. She has a first-round bye and will play Spain's Paula Badosa on Thursday or Friday.

Formula One - The Albert Park Circuit is getting ready to host this weekend's Australian Grand Prix. Red Bull have made a dominant start to the season with Max Verstappen beginning his quest for a fourth successive drivers' title. Ferrari have managed to put some pressure on Red Bull, with Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc taking a podium each in the opening two races in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.

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