French and Riviera News Wednesday 9th December 2020

News 

Helicopter crash in Savoie – A helicopter belonging to the Service Aérien Français, a private company that conducts search-and-rescue missions and other air services across France, has crashed in the French Alps killing five of the six people on board. The accident occurred on Tuesday at around 7pm in Savoie. The pilot of the aircraft is in a critical condition in hospital. It is not yet known if the crew on board were carrying out training or a rescue operation. An investigation has been opened. In a tweet, French President Emmanuel Macron shared "support from the nation to the families, friend and colleagues of these French heroes". French Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin will visit the site of the incident later today.

Professor Didier Raoult - Following death threats, Professor Didier Raoult has filed a complaint against a head of department at the Nantes University Hospital. Raoult, head of the University Hospital of Marseille filed the complaint back in March for "death threats" and "act of intimidation" however faced with the "slowness" of the Nantes prosecutor's office, the infectious disease specialist has decided to become a civil party to seize an investigating judge. Raoult’s lawyer regrets the "slowness" of the Nantes prosecutor adding that the threats were received by phone on March 1st and 2nd.

France’s highest court rejects appeal from France’s hotel and restaurant industry - France’s State Council has rejected an appeal from restaurant owners against the closure of their establishments. The “Union des métiers et des industries de l’hotellerie” seized France’s highest court at the end of November to contest the closure of bars and restaurants as part of the fight against the Covid-19 epidemic. They were hoping to be able to open restaurants before January 15th. The Umih of the Provence Alpes-Côte d’Azur and Corsica has reacted with anger following the decision announcing plans to demonstrate in Paris on December 14th.

Mobile health teams - The French government is working on a plan to curb the second, and possibly a third wave of Covid-19. Mobile health teams are to be set up as part of a “test, alert, protect” strategy. The teams will tend to Covid-19 patients, and test family members and primary contacts at their homes, to allow for more effective isolation.

Government meetings on Covid-19 situation - French President Emmanuel Macron is to chair a meeting of the Defence Council today with a press conference from French Prime Minister Jean Castex and the Minister of Health Olivier Veran, to follow at 6pm on Thursday. It's believed that they will address the issue of whether coronavirus numbers are low enough to permit the end of lockdown, which is scheduled for next Tuesday, 15th December.

Reform security forces - Following weeks of protests over police violence in France, French President Emmanuel Macron has said there is an "urgent need" to reform the security forces. Macron has said that he will hold a summit next month to review community relations and the working conditions of the police. In a letter to a leading police union this week the Head of State said, "I want to move quickly and concretely”.

Nuclear power - President Emmanuel Macron has said that “nuclear power will remain a key part of France's energy supplies”. Speaking on Tuesday, Macron showed support for the industry even as he looks to reduce nuclear's dominance as a power source. France has said it will cut its reliance on nuclear energy to 50% from 75% by 2035 and has yet to make a final decision on whether to build next-generation EPR nuclear reactors. Some environmental campaigners have hit out at this policy, with Greenpeace calling nuclear energy a "false solution" to climate change concerns, saying it entailed costs that could be better spent on cleaner solutions.

Sarkozy trial - Prosecutors in the political corruption trial of former French President Nicolas Sarkozy have called for him to be sentenced to a prison term of four years, of which he should serve two. The 65-year-old is the country’s first modern head of state to appear in the dock. Prosecutors asked for the same punishment for Sarkozy’s lawyer and co-defendant, Thierry Herzog, as well as for the judge, Gilbert Azibert.

Valéry Giscard d’Estaing - The town hall in Antibes is opening a book of condolence for Valéry Giscard d'Estaing who died on December 2nd. Today marks a national day of tribute in memory of the former French president. The City of Antibes Juan-les-Pins is providing a register at the Town Hall on the Cours Masséna to allow everyone to pay a written tribute. The register will remain available at the town hall until the end of the week.

Road closed to allow frogs to cross - The town of Lamballe in Brittany has closed a regional road for three months to allow frogs to cross without being run over. From December 14th until March 15th, the road will be blocked at the level of the town of Lamballe to allow frogs and other small amphibians to cross the river. Last year the same action was taken, saving the lives of thousands of frogs, toads and newts. The RD28 is not particularly busy during this period with about 400 vehicles per day. But it only takes one car to kill several frogs. In total, 11 protected species cross the area each year during the breeding season.

Largest ever Euromillions jackpot is still unclaimed - The largest-ever Euromillions jackpot is still up for grabs after nobody won the top prize on Tuesday. Meanwhile those who took part in the Lotto Powerball draw on Tuesday December 1st in South Africa couldn’t believe their eyes when they saw the results appear on their screens. Five consecutive numbers were drawn and the complementary number completes the following: 05-06-07-08-09, and the complementary number ("Powerball") 10. According to some it is a scam, but the 20 lucky winners will certainly disagree! The South African Lottery tweeted “Congratulations to our 20 Powerball winners tonight. These numbers may be unexpected, but we are seeing many players playing these combinations".

Business

Asian shares have risen to record highs this morning and S&P futures have strengthened with investors tracking positive news on Covid-19 vaccines amid ongoing efforts to launch more fiscal stimulus. The gains came after Wall Street posted record highs on Tuesday boosted by positive vaccine news and hopes of progress in US stimulus talks. US policy makers are continuing to negotiate over additional stimulus to help offset the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic while at the same time pursuing a stopgap government funding bill. Leaders in both the Republican and Democratic parties say that a deal must be struck but sticking points include aid to state and local governments as well as business liability protections. On the currency markets, the pound is holding steady ahead of make-or-break talks on a trade deal between the UK and the European Union. The dollar continues to be weak but has picked up a little steam today while oil is down a little following a rise in US crude inventories. Brent Crude was down 0.2 percent a little earlier at 48 dollars 75 with West Texas Intermediate down 0.2 percent at 45 dollars 50.

The British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is flying to Brussels later today for last ditch trade talks with the president of the European Commission Ursula van der Layen. Time to reach a deal is running out with the transition period due to end on the 31st of December and both sides playing down the chances of success. The two leaders will hold talks over a three course dinner this evening with sticking points remaining on fishing rights, business competition rules and how any deal will be regulated. Any progress made this evening will not rubber stamp a deal but will pave the way for further negotiations towards the end of the week, possibly running into Friday. On Tuesday, the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier warned the bloc’s Europe Ministers that talks were tilting towards a no-deal outcome and said that negotiations with his UK counterpart Lord David Frost had been “difficult”. In separate talks on Tuesday, the EU and the UK did reach agreement on specific trade arrangements for Northern Ireland including on post-Brexit border checks and trading rules for the province and how the new Irish sea border will work. The development means that the UK has now dropped plans to override sections of the EU withdrawal bill that it signed last year.

British businesses have warned that a global shipping crisis is causing freight costs to soar and that consumers may soon see price rises for imported goods. Skyrocketing shipping rates and being compounded by carriers adding congestion charges because of severe delays for imports at the ports of Southampton and Felixstowe. The Logistics Industry has written to the UK Department for Transport calling for help in clearing backlogs. Shipping schedules had been initially disrupted during the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic but a recent surge in demand for imports ahead of Brexit and a backlog of empty shipping containers are causing major disruption at UK ports.

Sport

Football - Manchester United have been knocked out of the European Champions League after losing their final group game 3-2 at RB Leipzig. The result means that United drop into the Europa League, a competition that they won in 2017. The other group game between PSG and Istanbul Basak-sehir will have to be completed today after the players from both sides left the field accusing a match official of using a racist term towards one of Istanbul’s backroom staff. Chelsea who had already won Group E shared a 1-1 draw with Krasnodar. The final group games in the Champions League are being played tonight including Manchester City against Marseille in Group C and Liverpool away at FC Midtylland in Group D.

In the English Championship last night Coventry and Luton drew 0-0. Huddersfield were 2-0 winners over Sheffield Wednesday. Millwall and QPR drew 1-1. Stoke lost 2-1 at home to Cardiff. Swansea and Bournemouth drew 0-0 and Watford beat Rotherham 2-0.

Rugby Union - England’s former World Cup winner Steve Thompson has revealed that he’s suffering with early-onset dementia and has joined a group of players who are starting a claim against the game’s authorities for negligence. The 42-year-old who was part of England’s 2003 winning World Cup side says that he can’t remember playing in any of the games and that it’s “frightening”. The group is claiming that playing rugby has left them with permanent brain damage and that repeated blows to the head are to blame. A compensation settlement could run into millions of pounds and have wide reaching implications for the future of the sport.

Formula 1 - Lewis Hamilton says that he’s working to be fit for the season finale after contracting coronavirus and having to isolate in Bahrain. In a video post on social media, the 7-time world champion said that it had been one of the “hardest weeks” that he’d had for some time and that he’s been focusing on recovering and trying to get back into shape. Hamilton will not be allowed to leave Bahrain until he’s got a negative test. 

Weather

Partially cloudy with moderate westerly winds. Top temperature 12 degrees. Overnight lows of 7 degrees on the coast and 3 degrees inland with clear skies.

Thursday and Friday - Mainly fine tomorrow with a high of 11. Sunshine and showers on Friday with a high of 10 degrees.

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