France Fines Google 500 Mn Euros In News Copyright Row

This file photo taken on February 14, 2020 shows the Google logo in Brussels. Kenzo TRIBOUILLARD / AFP
This file photo taken on February 14, 2020 shows the Google logo in Brussels. Kenzo TRIBOUILLARD / AFP

 

 

France’s competition watchdog on Tuesday slapped Google with a 500-million-euro ($593-million) fine for failing to negotiate “in good faith” with media companies over the use of their content under EU copyright rules.

It is “the biggest ever fine” imposed by the Competition Authority for a company’s failure to adhere to one of its rulings, the agency’s chief Isabelle De Silva told reporters, saying the decision was intended to “reflect the gravity” of Google’s shortcomings.

The regulator also ordered Google to present media publishers with “an offer of renumeration for the current use of their copyrighted content”, or risk paying additional damages of up to 900,000 euros a day.

A Google spokesperson said in a statement to AFP that the company was “very disappointed” by the decision.

“We have acted in good faith during the entire negotiation period. This fine does not reflect the efforts put in place, nor the reality of the use of news content on our platform,” the company insisted.

“This decision is mainly about negotiations that took place between May and September 2020. Since then, we have continued to work with publishers and news agencies to find common ground.”

The long-running legal battle has centred on claims that Google has been showing articles, pictures and videos produced by media outlets when displaying search results without adequate compensation, despite the seismic shift of global advertising revenues towards the search giant.

In April 2020, the French competition authority ordered Google to negotiate “in good faith” with media groups after it refused to comply with a 2019 EU law governing digital copyright.

The so-called “neighbouring rights” aim to ensure that news publishers are compensated when their work is shown on websites, search engines and social media platforms.

But last September, French news publishers including Agence France-Presse (AFP) filed a complaint with regulators, saying Google was refusing to move forward on paying to display content in web searches.

– ‘Systematic lack of respect’ –
While Google insists it has made progress on the issue, the French regulator said the company’s behaviour “indicates a deliberate, elaborate and systematic lack of respect” for its order to negotiate in good faith.

In particular, the Competition Authority rebuked Google for having failed to “have a specific discussion” with media companies about neighbouring rights during negotiations over its Google Showcase news service, which launched late last year.

Tuesday’s ruling had been keenly anticipated by news outlets across Europe, as the first decision of its kind by a regulator over the EU’s neighbouring rights policy.

News outlets struggling with dwindling print subscriptions have long seethed at Google’s refusal to give them a cut of the millions of euros it makes from ads displayed alongside news search results.

Google initially refused to pay media outlets for the snippets of news stories, photos and videos that appear in the search results, arguing that the traffic these searches send to their websites was payment enough.

The internet giant has since softened its stance, and announced in November that it had signed “some individual agreements” on copyright payments with French newspapers and magazines, including top dailies Le Monde and Le Figaro.

Google and AFP are “close to an agreement” on the issue, the news agency’s chief executive Fabrice Fries and Google’s France director Sebastien Missoffe said in a joint statement Tuesday.

Google has further defended itself against claims that it is contributing to the demise of traditional media by pointing to its support for news outlets in other ways, including emergency funding during the Covid-19 crisis.

But the company is coming under increasing pressure from regulators around the world as concerns grow that media outlets will find it increasingly difficult to hold those in power to account faced with such chronic underfunding.

Australia has taken one of the most aggressive positions, demanding that Google and Facebook pay media organisations when their platforms host their content or face millions of dollars in fines.

The landmark legislation resulted in Google and Facebook signing deals worth millions of dollars to Australian media companies.

French Father Goes On Hunger Strike For Kids ‘Abducted’ By Japanese Wife

For the children allegedly kidnapped by his Japanese wife, a French father goes on hunger strike.

 

 

A Frenchman in Japan who says his children were abducted by their Japanese mother began a hunger strike in Tokyo Saturday, in a protest he hopes will bring international attention to his fight to be reunited with his family. 

“I’ve given everything, I’ve lost my job, my house and my savings in the last three years. I weigh 80 kilograms now, and I’ll give it all until the very last gram,” Vincent Fichot told AFP, sitting at the entrance to a train station in Tokyo, not far from the new Olympic stadium.

Fichot, 39, who has lived in Japan for 15 years, said he will not give up his hunger strike until his children, a boy and a girl aged six and four, are returned to him.

Failing that, he said, “I want the French authorities to show me they are serious and that they really want to defend my kids, and that they will impose sanctions against Japan until Japan agrees to protect my children’s rights.”

His wife has accused him in court of domestic violence, Fichot said, but later “retracted” the claim, and the Japanese justice system now has “nothing to reproach me for”, he said.

“I’ve tried everything, I’ve tried to convince my wife by saying to her that it was not good for the kids,” he added. “Right now I don’t even know if they are alive.”

Joint custody of children in cases of divorce or separation does not exist legally in Japan, where parental abductions are common and often tolerated by local authorities.

No official numbers exist, but rights groups have estimated that about 150,000 minors are forcibly separated from a parent every year in the East Asian archipelago.

Among those are some bi-national children, like those of Fichot, who, having hit a brick wall with Japanese authorities, has now turned to the French state and international bodies.

He plans to continue his hunger strike day and night — and says if police chase him away he will go elsewhere.

Members of a Tokyo-based support committee, which includes other foreign parents in the same situation, will bring him water, clothes, and help him charge his electronic devices.

Fichot also plans to post a short daily video on his Facebook page to publicise his situation and keep followers up to date on his physical condition.

French President Emmanuel Macron will arrive in Tokyo at the end of the month to attend the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games.

During his last visit to the country, Macron spoke out in support of French parents separated from their children in Japan, condemning “situations of distress that are completely unacceptable”.

France To Legalise IVF For Lesbians After Two-Year Debate

French President Emmanuel Macron speaks to journalists at the Hospitality school in Tain l’Hermitage on June 8, 2021, during a visit in the French southeastern department of Drôme, the second stage of a nationwide tour ahead of next year’s presidential election. A bystander slapped Emmanuel Macron across the face during a trip to southeast France on June 8 on the second stop of a nation-wide tour.
PHILIPPE DESMAZES / AFP

 

 

Lesbian couples and single women in France are set to celebrate a milestone on Tuesday when parliament finally passes a bill giving them access to fertility treatment for the first time.

Under current French law, only heterosexual couples have the right to access medically assisted procreation methods such as in vitro fertilisation (IVF).

Lesbian couples and single women who want children have to travel abroad for IVF using donor sperm.

That is set to change under the new legislation introduced by President Emmanuel Macron’s government, which the National Assembly will vote on after two years of often acrimonious debate.

The reform will bring France in line with several European countries, including Belgium and Spain, currently two of the top destinations for French lesbian couples and single women looking for help to conceive.

The Inter-LGBT association said it would welcome the change, which it described as a “forceps birth” after years of foot-dragging by Macron and his Socialist predecessor Francois Hollande.

– Protests fizzle –
While campaigning for president in 2017 Macron said he was “favourable” to extending fertility treatment to lesbian and single women.

But once elected, the centrist leader repeatedly put off changing the law, mindful of the mass protests triggered by a gay marriage bill in 2013 that caught Hollande’s government off guard.

However, public opinion this time is squarely behind the move.

A recent Ifop poll suggested 67 percent of French people supported the measure.

Calls for protests by the largely Catholic anti-gay marriage movement yielded only a tepid response.

Under the proposed law, which was first ratified by the National Assembly in October 2019 but then held up in the Senate, France’s healthcare system will cover the cost of fertility procedures for all women under 43.

The right-wing Republicans party, which has a majority in the Senate and which opposed the bill, introduced hundreds of amendments before sending the text back to the assembly for Tuesday’s final vote.

Give the dominance of Macron’s Republic on the Move party and its allies in the lower house, the ballot is seen as a mere formality.

The legislation addresses several issues arising out of the massive increase in the use of fertility treatment in recent years.

It allows children conceived with donor sperm to learn the donor’s identity when they become adults, ending the anonymity that donors in France have been guaranteed until now.

And it allows women in their thirties to freeze their eggs — a procedure currently available only to women undergoing treatment for conditions that could impact their fertility, such as radiation therapy or chemotherapy for cancer.

But it stops short at legalising surrogacy, a practice used by some gay couples to have children that is still widely rejected in France.

England Face Germany In Euro 2020 Blockbuster After France Make Shock Exit

England’s defender Kyle Walker (C) takes part in an MD-1 training session at the team’s base camp in St George’s Park in Burton-on-Trent, on June 28, 2021, on the eve of their UEFA EURO 2020 round of 16 football match against Germany. (Photo by JUSTIN TALLIS / AFP)

 

 

England can avenge decades of hurt at the hands of Germany when they face their old rivals in a blockbuster Euro 2020 last-16 clash on Tuesday after the tournament was rocked by France’s stunning exit.

Gareth Southgate’s side host Germany at Wembley at 1600 GMT in what is England’s biggest match on home turf for 25 years.

England beat the Germans to win the 1966 World Cup final, but their major tournament history has been littered with painful exits against them since then.

 

Germany supporters pose before the UEFA EURO 2020 round of 16 football match between France and Switzerland at the National Arena in Bucharest on June 28, 2021. (Photo by FRANCK FIFE / various sources / AFP)

 

A quarter-final loss at the 1970 World Cup ended England’s reign as champions, while the 1990 World Cup semi-final defeat on penalties is still etched in the nation’s psyche.

When England last played at home in a tournament, Southgate was the Euro 96 fall guy as he missed a crucial penalty in the semi-final shoot-out defeat.

There was also a heavy defeat at the 2010 World Cup yet Southgate, aware of the debilitating weight of that history, insists the tie is not a chance to exorcise the ghosts of past England failures.

Instead, he believe it is a chance for his players to add a memorable new chapter to their personal stories.

“This team, I’ve said for a long time, have had so many unique achievements and my focus is on this team and helping them to succeed,” Southgate said.

“This is about our players. This is their moment and it’s their opportunity.”

– ‘Loser goes home’ –
Asked if perhaps his Euro 96 pain would give his players extra motivation to win it for him, Southgate said: “Good grief, no. I don’t think we’ll be relying on that!

“So, no, this is about them. This is about them having a chance to achieve something, and certainly not for me to take any shine off of that.”

England have never won the European Championship and a victory against Germany would be only their second knockout stage win in the history of the competition.

In contrast, Germany have been crowned kings of Europe three times, with the most recent success coming in 1996.

However, Germany travelled to London in the unusual position of fearing defeat against England.

Joachim Loew’s team stumbled into the last 16 after rescuing a 2-2 draw against Hungary in their final group game.

Germany are not the intimidating force of old and, with Loew stepping down at the end of the tournament, a defeat would signal the end of an era.

Despite winning the World Cup in 2014, Loew has been criticised for his role in a humiliating group-stage exit from the 2018 World Cup and a series of poor results before the Euro.

“All in all, I thought about it for two seconds,” said Loew ahead of potentially his last game.

“This is my passion. My whole focus is on the match and I hope we will succeed.”

England will have the vast majority of a 40,000 crowd on their side at Wembley and Loew expects a spine-tingling encounter.

“This is a match which electrifies everybody. For both teams, it’s in or out, it’s now or never, the loser goes home,” he said.

The winner will face a quarter-final in Rome against the winner of Tuesday’s late tie between Sweden and Ukraine, which will be played in Glasgow.

 

TOPSHOT – France’s forward Kylian Mbappe (L) reacts to his miss as Switzerland’s goalkeeper Yann Sommer celebrates his save during the UEFA EURO 2020 round of 16 football match between France and Switzerland at the National Arena in Bucharest on June 28, 2021. (Photo by FRANCK FIFE / POOL / AFP)

 

France’s forward Kylian Mbappe reacts after missing a penalty in the penalty shootout during the UEFA EURO 2020 round of 16 football match between France and Switzerland at the National Arena in Bucharest on June 28, 2021. (Photo by Justin Setterfield / POOL / AFP)

 

– Mbappe misses decisive penalty –
Whatever happens on Tuesday it will struggle to live up to the drama of Monday, when world champions France suffered a stunning defeat against Switzerland, losing 5-4 on penalties after a thrilling 3-3 draw in Bucharest as Kylian Mbappe missed the vital kick.

France trailed to Haris Seferovic’s first-half header and could have fallen further behind when Ricardo Rodriguez’s 55th-minute penalty was saved by Hugo Lloris.

Karim Benzema scored twice in 244 seconds immediately after that miss to put France ahead.

Paul Pogba increased their lead with a stunning strike, but Seferovic struck again in the 81st minute and Mario Gavranovic equalised in stoppage time.

Yann Sommer was Switzerland’s hero in the shootout as the goalkeeper saved Mbappe’s penalty to seal an incredible giant-killing.

“Penalties are always cruel for one team and unfortunately it was us,” said France coach Didier Deschamps.

“We are not used to it, but we will have to accept it.”

 

Switzerland’s goalkeeper Yann Sommer reacts after saving a shot by France’s forward Kylian Mbappe in the penalty shootout during the UEFA EURO 2020 round of 16 football match between France and Switzerland at the National Arena in Bucharest on June 28, 2021. (Photo by Justin Setterfield / POOL / AFP)

 

In the quarter-finals, Switzerland face Spain, who hit back for an epic 5-3 extra-time win against Croatia after blowing the lead in Copenhagen.

Pablo Sarabia, Cesar Azpilicueta and Ferran Torres netted to put Spain 3-1 ahead with 13 minutes left after Pedri’s own goal had given Croatia the lead.

Mislav Orsic and Mario Pasalic scored in the last five minutes to force extra time, but Spain prevailed thanks to goals from Alvaro Morata and Mikel Oyarzabal.

Macron And Le Pen Face New Test In French Regional Vote

French President’s wife Brigitte Macron, next to French President Emmanuel Macron (L), casts her ballot as she votes at a polling station in Le Touquet, for the second round of the French regional elections on June 27, 2021. (Photo by Ludovic MARIN / POOL / AFP)

 

France was voting in the second round of regional elections on Sunday after a first round that saw a drubbing for President Emmanuel Macron’s ruling party, disappointment for Marine Le Pen’s far-right and record low turnout.

For some observers, the outcome of the June 20 first round raised doubts over whether the 2022 presidential election would come down to a duel between Macron and Le Pen in a run-off long seen as the most likely scenario.

The first-round results marked a boost for the traditional right-wing The Republicans as well as the Socialist Party, who have been squeezed after the centrist Macron surged into power in 2017 with his brand-new Republic on the Move (LREM) party.

Analysts warn against too much extrapolation onto a nationwide scale from the results of the regional elections, which choose the heads of France’s 13 mainland regions from Brittany in the northwest to the Provence-Alpes-Cote d’Azur (PACA) region in the southeast.

But there was cross-party concern over the turnout for last week’s polls, which were shunned by 66.72 percent of voters — a record in modern France.

“What we are seeing is the culmination of a disconnection between voters and the political class,” said Jessica Sainty, politics lecturer at Avignon University, while acknowledging the Covid-19 crisis also played a role in high abstention rate.

The woeful turnout prompted a debate over how to improve participation, with several figures including government spokesman Gabriel Attal suggesting electronic voting could help in future.

According to a poll published Thursday, just 36 percent of voters plan to cast their ballots on Sunday. “France is sulking,” the Le Parisien newspaper said.

Four hours after polls opened, turnout on Sunday stood at the same dismal 12.66 percent as during the first round.

– Far-right eyes breakthrough –

The first-round results put Le Pen’s National Rally (RN) ahead in just one region, PACA, a major disappointment after polls showed a possible breakthrough in several areas.

One of the most closely watched races on Sunday will be whether RN candidate Thierry Mariani can defeat his right-wing rival Renaud Muselier in the region.

Gaining control of a region for the first time would be a huge boost for Le Pen as she seeks to convince voters that the RN — which she has reformed and rebranded since taking over from her firebrand father Jean-Marie — is a serious party of power.

Muselier could be helped by the withdrawal of left-wing candidates in a repeat of the “Republican Front” seen in past presidential elections to block the far-right.

“The idea of a victory for Mariani — even if it is far from being probable — would show that the RN can almost triumph alone over the coalition of all the others and head the powerful executive of a modern region,” said Jerome Sainte-Marie, president of the Pollingvox Institute.

Mariani has been accused by critics of being an admirer of authoritarians like Russian President Vladimir Putin and Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad. Prime Minister Jean Castex warned last week that a Mariani victory would be “very serious” for the country.

The RN also came up short in the Ile-de-France region that includes Paris, where its 25-year-old rising star Jordan Bardella failed to trouble right-wing incumbent Valerie Pecresse, who is now expected to easily win the second round.

– ‘Lacks local presence’ –

The first-round results made even more unpalatable reading for Macron and his LREM, confirming the party’s failure to put down local and regional roots despite controlling the presidency and lower house of parliament.

Despite sending several ministers to campaign and Macron himself embarking on a nationwide tour — that saw him slapped by an onlooker at one point — in some regions LREM did not muster the required 10 percent to make round two.

“2022: What if it wasn’t them?” asked the headline in the left-wing Liberation newspaper over a picture of Macron and Le Pen.

LREM has almost no chance of winning control of a single region and is currently just number five among political parties in France.

The Socialists are expected to pick up some regions, partly due to support from the far-left France Unbowed party.

“LREM lacks a local presence, but in 2017 that did not prevent them from winning the presidential and legislative elections,” said Sainty.

Voting began at 8:00 am (0600 GMT) on Sunday, with the last polling stations due to close 12 hours later.

AFP

France Takes Apple To Court Over ‘Abusive’ Practices

A closed Apple Store in Washington, DC, on April 29, 2020, ahead of their expected first quarter earnings report after market close on April 30. SAUL LOEB / AFP
A closed Apple Store in Washington, DC, on April 29, 2020, ahead of their expected first quarter earnings report after market close on April 30.
SAUL LOEB / AFP

 

 

A Paris court will hear in September a lawsuit supported by the French government against Apple that alleges the US tech giant uses abusive commercial practices against startups, a source said Thursday.

The lawsuit, filed in 2018 by France’s competition and anti-fraud agency in the name of Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire, seeks a halt to the practices and a fine of 2.0 million euros ($2.4 million), the source said, confirming a report by the French business daily Les Echos.

The lawsuit follows three years of investigation by the competition and anti-fraud agency and a recent complaint by France Digitale, an association of French tech startups.

The Paris business court has set a trial date for September 17, the source said.

The competition and anti-fraud agency, which contacted by AFP, would only confirm that legal proceedings are under way.

Le Maire complained in 2018 that French startups selling their apps to Apple and Google were having prices dictated to them by tech giants and were unilaterally modifying contracts.

“Three months ahead of the French presidency of the EU, the result of this lawsuit will be historic,” said Nicolas Brien, president of the European Startup Network, which groups national federations from 24 European countries.

“Either Apple is convicted of having violated existing law, or Apple slips through the cracks and we’ve got proof that existing laws don’t allow us to regulate systemic platforms,” Brien told AFP.

Such a ruling would provide a major boost to efforts to put teeth in the Digital Markets Act.

The EU is currently rewriting the rules of the game for tech giants with the Digital Markets Act and a companion law, the Digital Services Act.

The goal is to set up special rules for systemic platforms, or “gatekeepers”, in order to protect consumers, companies and potential rivals from their overwhelming market power.

Brien said the contractual conditions that Apple imposes on app developers to reach customers through the AppStore are tilted in Apple’s favour.

He said he hoped the court would force Apple to rewrite the contractual terms for app publishers.

“It’s time to cut open the straitjacket,” Brien said.

Euro 2020: Antoine Griezmann Rescues France With 1-1 Draw Against Hungary

France’s forward Antoine Griezmann scores his team’s first goal during the UEFA EURO 2020 Group F football match between Hungary and France at Puskas Arena in Budapest on June 19, 2021. (Photo by FRANCK FIFE / POOL / AFP)

 

 

Antoine Griezmann salvaged a 1-1 draw for France against Hungary in Budapest as the world champions missed the chance to clinch a place in the Euro 2020 last 16 on Saturday.

Hungary threatened to blow Group F wide open when Attila Fiola gave the hosts a shock lead in first-half stoppage time after catching out the France defence.

But Griezmann, the Golden Boot winner at Euro 2016, equalised on 66 minutes as an unconvincing France avoided a first competitive defeat since June 2019.

Didier Deschamps’ side top the section with four points, one above reigning champions Portugal who play Germany in Munich later. Hungary earned their first point and the Germans are bottom after losing to France in their opener.

 

(L-R) France’s forward Antoine Griezmann, France’s forward Kylian Mbappe and France’s forward Karim Benzema prepare for a free kick during the UEFA EURO 2020 Group F football match between Hungary and France at Puskas Arena in Budapest on June 19, 2021. (Photo by FRANCK FIFE / POOL / AFP)

 

France stay in Budapest for their final game against Portugal, while Hungary travel to Munich to take on Germany, still hoping to qualify for the knockout phase for a second straight tournament.

Contending with stifling temperatures in excess of 30 degrees Celsius (86 degrees Fahrenheit) and a crowd approaching 60,000 at the Puskas Arena, the only Euro 2020 venue without capacity restrictions due to Covid-19, France controlled much of the first half.

Having lived up to their billing as tournament favourites in a 1-0 win over Germany, France dominated Hungary early on, creating numerous chances against a side that held out for 84 minutes before losing 3-0 to Portugal.

Peter Gulacsi clawed away Karim Benzema’s low drive, reacting sharply to keep out Griezmann’s follow-up, despite the Barcelona star being flagged for offside.

Lucas Digne, brought into the side for Lucas Hernandez as the only change made by France coach Deschamps, then picked out an unmarked Kylian Mbappe whose glancing header flashed narrowly wide.

Hungary lost captain Adam Szalai to injury midway through the first half, and the hosts were living dangerously as Benzema sliced badly from a superb flick by Mbappe before the Paris Saint-Germain forward dragged wide himself.

France captain Hugo Lloris had warned of over confidence against a team expected to finish bottom of the group, and Les Bleus were punished for a brief lapse just before half-time.

 

 

France’s forward Antoine Griezmann (R) celebrates scoring his team’s first goal with his teammates during the UEFA EURO 2020 Group F football match between Hungary and France at Puskas Arena in Budapest on June 19, 2021. (Photo by BERNADETT SZABO / POOL / AFP)

Fiola collected Adam Nagy’s crossfield ball and played a one-two with Roland Sallai, outpacing Benjamin Pavard and holding off Raphael Varane to side-foot beyond Lloris at his near post.

Deschamps had waited until the 89th minute before making a substitute in the opener against Germany, but the introduction of Ousmane Dembele for Adrien Rabiot on the hour nearly brought an immediate equaliser as the Barcelona forward rattled the post.

France pulled level when a long kick upfield by Lloris sailed over the head of Nagy, with Mbappe latching onto it ahead of Hungary’s Paris-born Loic Nego.

His ball across goal was deflected into Griezmann’s path by Willi Orban, allowing the forward to slam in his seventh European Championship goal.

Gulacsi produced a fine save to turn away a fierce shot from Mbappe as France pressed for a victory that would have sent them through to the knockout phase. Instead, they must wait until Wednesday’s clash with Portugal.

 

 

Hungary fans cheer prior to the UEFA EURO 2020 Group F football match between Hungary and France at Puskas Arena in Budapest on June 19, 2021. (Photo by FRANCK FIFE / POOL / AFP)

 

France fans cheer prior to the UEFA EURO 2020 Group F football match between Hungary and France at Puskas Arena in Budapest on June 19, 2021. (Photo by BERNADETT SZABO / POOL / AFP)

Federer Set For French Open Pullout And End Four-Decade Paris Stretch

Switzerland's Roger Federer serves the ball to Germany's Dominik Koepfer during their men's singles third round tennis match on Day 7 of The Roland Garros 2021 French Open tennis tournament in Paris on June 5, 2021. MARTIN BUREAU / AFP
Switzerland’s Roger Federer serves the ball to Germany’s Dominik Koepfer during their men’s singles third round tennis match on Day 7 of The Roland Garros 2021 French Open tennis tournament in Paris on June 5, 2021. MARTIN BUREAU / AFP

 

Roger Federer could end his French Open career which has stretched over four decades with an injury-enforced withdrawal on Sunday as the 39-year-old rests his weary bones for an assault on his primary objective, a ninth Wimbledon title.

The 20-time Grand Slam title winner, who will be 40 in two months’ time, battled over three and a half hours until 12:45 Sunday morning to reach the last 16 in Paris.

He is due back on court on Monday to tackle Matteo Berrettini for a place in the quarter-finals.

However, having undergone two knee surgeries in 2020, the Swiss star admitted there are doubts he’ll make it.

“I don’t know if I am going to play,” said Federer who is likely to be playing his last French Open.

“I have to decide whether or not to continue. Is it too risky to keep putting pressure on the knee? Is it a good time to rest?

“Every match I have to reassess the situation and see the next morning in what state I wake up and how my knee is doing.

“It may be even more true after a match as long as the one tonight.”

If his knife-edge 7-6 (7/5), 6-7 (3/7), 7-6 (7/4), 7-5 win over 59th-ranked Dominik Koepfer was his last match in Paris, it will be remembered as a gripping affair on the court, but soulless off it.

Wimbledon target

Due to a government-imposed Covid-19 curfew, Court Philippe Chatrier was devoid of fans and atmosphere.

Federer is playing only his third tournament since last year’s Australian Open and has always said Wimbledon is his main goal.

He is chasing a ninth title at Wimbledon which starts on June 28.

He is also scheduled to play the warm-up grass court tournament in Halle beginning on June 14, the day after the French Open ends.

Federer, who made his Roland Garros debut in 1999 and was champion in 2009, was playing a night session for the first time.

However, the almost empty 15,000-capacity court was eerily silent.

“I might have been more nervous if the stadium had been full,” added Federer.

“All the matches I’ve played since the injury are information for the rest of the season.

“It gives me real pleasure to be able to play 3hr 30min at a high level against a very good player. It shows that I’m on the right track.”

As Federer weighs up leaving a tournament where Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic were always the title favourites, fellow veteran Serena Williams resumes her bid for a historic 24th Grand Slam title.

Serena eyes history

Seeded seventh, the 39-year-old Williams is the second-highest ranked player left in the women’s draw.

After Naomi Osaka’s shock withdrawal, Simona Halep missing the event through injury and early losses for Bianca Andreescu and Angelique Kerber, none of the players who have beaten Williams in Grand Slam finals since her last title at the 2017 Australian Open are still in the competition.

The former world number one, still just one short of Margaret Court’s all-time record of major trophies, takes on Kazakhstan’s Elena Rybakina for a spot in the quarter-finals.

Williams has not gone beyond the fourth round in Paris since losing the 2016 final to Garbine Muguruza.

She arrived at this year’s French Open with just one win on clay this term.

“I’ve had a rough clay court season thus far, so I’m happy to get some wins on the clay,” Williams said after beating fellow American Danielle Collins in round three.

Tamara Zidansek on Sunday became the first Slovenian woman to reach the quarter-finals of a Grand Slam when she defeated Romania’s Sorana Cirstea 7-6 (7/4), 6-1.

The world number 85, who knocked out former US Open champion Andreescu in round one, will face either 2019 Roland Garros runner-up Marketa Vondrousova or Paula Badosa for a place in the semi-finals.

The 23-year-old had never previously got beyond the second round of a major.

Greek star Stefanos Tsitsipas is seen as a favourite to reach his first Grand Slam final, with Nadal, Djokovic and Federer all in the other half of the men’s draw.

A semi-finalist at the past two majors, Tsitsipas was beaten in a thrilling five-setter by Djokovic in Paris eight months ago.

On Sunday, he faces 12th seed Pablo Carreno Busta.

He could then meet twice Grand Slam finalist and second seed Daniil Medvedev, the Russian who plays Chile’s Cristian Garin in the last 16.

AFP

Two Shot Dead On Greek Resort Island Of Corfu

A file photo of Greece flag.

 

Two people were shot and killed on Sunday near a hotel on the Greek resort island of Corfu, police said.

“We got a report on gunshots being fired at 11:30 am (0830 GMT), near a hotel,” a police source in Athens said.

“The first information we have is that two people have been fatally wounded. It has yet to be confirmed by a coroner,” the officer said.

The incident occurred in the coastal resort of Dasia.

A police manhunt is underway to locate the gunman, Greek media reported.

State TV ERT had earlier reported that a local man had fired on a French couple living permanently on the island, apparently over a private dispute.

France Detains Russian Tennis Player Over Suspected Match-Fixing

France’s Flag

 

Police in Paris have detained Russian tennis player Yana Sizikova over the suspected fixing of a doubles match at the French Open last year.

Sizikova, 26, who is 101st in the women’s doubles rankings, was detained on Thursday night at the end of a match in this year’s tournament, police and a legal source told AFP.

Le Parisien newspaper, which first reported the arrest, said that she was detained after she came out of her post-match massage. Her hotel room was also searched, it added.

An investigation into possible sports corruption and organised fraud was opened last October over a first-round match in 2020 in which Sizikova and her American partner Madison Brengle lost to Romanian pair Andreea Mitu and Patricia Maria Tig.

Suspicions were aroused because of abnormally high betting activity on the match in countries outside France, which was reported to law enforcement, a source close to the case told AFP at the time.

One game in particular — the fifth of the second set — was being analysed by investigators after it featured two unusual double-faults by Sizikova who lost her serve to love.

On Thursday, Sizikova and her new partner Ekaterina Alexandrova lost in under an hour 1-6, 1-6 to Australian pair Storm Sanders and Ajla Tomljanovic in the first round of the women’s doubles.

Sizikova, who lives between Russia and Spain, was competing at Roland Garros for the first time in 2020.

The amounts placed in bets on her game amounted to “tens of thousands of euros”, a French source said in October.

The Global Lottery Monitoring System as well as the Group of Copenhagen, which brings together 33 national anti-sports corruption bodies, raised the alarm.

The president of the Russian tennis federation, Shamil Tarpichshev, said the case was “an old story”.

“This story has been running since October. Until the documents (about Sizikova) are published, we can’t do anything, we have to wait,” he told TASS.

The player’s lawyer in France, Frederic Belot, said: “Yana Sizikova had nothing to reproach herself for and intends to give all the necessary explanations to French investigators.”

Professional tennis has been hit with match-fixing allegations in the past, but only relatively junior players competing at lower-tier tournaments have been banned or convicted.

The International Tennis Integrity Agency (ITIA) was created by the international governing bodies to investigate allegations against players and hand out sanctions.

In January this year, it announced lifetime bans against two low-ranking Russian women’s doubles players, Sofia Dmitrieva and Alija Merdeeva, who were found to have been involved in match-fixing.

Sizikova is a doubles specialist with a current world singles ranking of 765.

France Threatens To Pull Troops Out Of Mali

France To Extend Lockdown As Virus Deaths Soar In Europe, US
File: Ludovic MARIN / POOL / AFP

 

President Emmanuel Macron warned in comments published Sunday that France will pull its troops out of Mali if it lurches towards radical Islamism following the second coup in nine months.

France has around 5,100 troops in the region under its so-called Barkhane operation which spans five countries in the Sahel — Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger.

The mission, headquartered in Chad, was launched after France intervened to fend off a jihadist advance in Mali in 2013.

On Tuesday France and the European Union denounced an “unacceptable coup d’etat” after Mali’s interim president Bah Ndaw and prime minister Moctar Ouane were detained and stripped of their powers in what is being seen as the country’s second coup in less than a year.

Macron said he had told Ndaw that France will withdraw its troops if Mali turns towards radical Islamism.

“Radical Islamism in Mali with our soldiers there? Never,” he told the weekly newspaper The Journal du Dimanche.

“There is this temptation today in Mali. But if it goes in that direction, I will withdraw,” he warned in comments made during a trip to Rwanda and South Africa. Macron flew home to Paris on Saturday.

The French president added that he had given a message to West African leaders that they could not back a country “where there is no longer democratic legitimacy or transition.”

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The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has invited Mali’s junta leader Colonel Assimi Goita to Ghana’s capital Accra for “consultations” ahead of an extraordinary summit on Sunday devoted to Mali.

Goita flew to Accra on Saturday, military and airport sources said.

He had served as vice president since leading a coup last August that ousted the democratically elected president, with the roles of president and prime minister held by civilians after pressure from ECOWAS, which has served as a mediator.

However, the transitional leaders were detained Monday before being released on Thursday, with the military saying they had resigned.

The twin arrests triggered a diplomatic uproar and marked the second apparent coup within a year in the Sahel country.

Mali’s constitutional court completed Goita’s rise to full power on Friday by naming him transitional president.

With the junta going back on its previous commitment to civilian political leaders, doubts have been raised about its other pledges.

Macron, in his comments published Sunday, warned that if Africa’s development fails then Europe “will pay dearly in terms of migration”.

He stressed the need to “invest massively” adding that the international community must also erase some of the continent’s debt burden “to help Africans build their future.”

AFP

‘Known Radical’ Killed In Shootout After Knife Attack On French Police

French gendarmes inspect the site where a suspect has been seen after a municipal policewoman was attacked with a knife on May 28, 2021, in La Chapelle-sur-Erdre, near Nantes, western France. A suspect ran away after a knife attack on a policewoman in La Chapelle-sur-Erdre, near Nantes, on May 28, 2021. LOIC VENANCE / AFP
French gendarmes inspect the site where a suspect has been seen after a municipal policewoman was attacked with a knife on May 28, 2021, in La Chapelle-sur-Erdre, near Nantes, western France. A suspect ran away after a knife attack on a policewoman in La Chapelle-sur-Erdre, near Nantes, on May 28, 2021. LOIC VENANCE / AFP

 

A “known radical” suspected of carrying out a knife attack in France died from injuries sustained in a shootout with police Friday, hours badly wounding a female officer in another act of violence against police.

The man, who was on a terrorist watch-list according to the interior ministry, had been on the run after the attack in La Chapelle-sur-Erdre near the western city of Nantes.

A total of 250 officers were trying to find him, and two gendarmes were wounded in the exchange of fire that resulted in his arrest, authorities said.

No motive for the stabbing has emerged, but the attacker was “a known radical and suffering from a very serious psychiatric illness”, one source involved in the investigation said.

After stabbing the officer at a police station, inflicting life-threatening injuries, the suspect stole her service weapon and fled on foot.

He then broke into the flat of a young woman, holding her there, and it was from there he fired on the gendarmes, prosecutor Pierre Sennes said.

The police officer he had stabbed was taken to hospital and later declared to be out of danger.

Prosecutors have opened an investigation into the attempted murder of the police officer and the gendarmes, and for the sequestration of the young woman.

“My first thoughts go to the police officer who was seriously wounded,” Prime Minister Jean Castex wrote on Twitter.

“She has all my support and… the support of the entire government.”

‘On watch-list’

Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin, visited the scene in the afternoon.

“This French-born French national, around 40 years old and known to police services, was released from prison in 2016 where he was pointed out because of a strict practice of Islam and radicalisation”, he said.

That had led to his inclusion on a watch-list of potential terrorist sympathisers, he added.

Arrested in 2013 for aggravated theft, on his release he was ordered to follow treatment for schizophrenia.

Darmanin said the suspect had opened fire on the officers who shot back. He had died shortly after the shootout.

An AFP photo reporter at the scene said he heard around a dozen rounds discharged in two rapid bursts during the standoff, in a residential area.

Special police forces carrying shields and wearing helmets used rubbish bins and bushes for cover as they opened fire.

One witness told AFP he saw a civilian on the ground surrounded by police after the shootout.

Pupils in the area’s primary and middle schools were kept indoors while police tracked the suspect, a city official told AFP.

“We drew the curtains and told the children to lie on the ground. They’ve been there for two hours,” one local teacher told AFP by text message during the manhunt.

The suspect’s former lawyer, Vincent de la Morandiere, told AFP that his client’s psychological state had “deteriorated gradually during his various spells in prison”.

One neighbour described him as “very discreet and polite” while another said “he told me he had psychological problems. He lived alone and didn’t have any visitors. He told me he had a child”.

La Chapelle-sur-Erdre is a town of 20,000 inhabitants just north of Nantes near the Atlantic coast.

The attack came the same day Justice Minister Eric Dupond-Moretti called on French judges to show “firmness” when dealing with people found guilty of attacks on police forces.

Spate of attacks

French police officers have demanded better protection and harsher punishments for attacks against them after a spate of assaults in recent months.

Earlier this month, officer Eric Masson was shot dead while investigating activity at a known drug-dealing site in the southern city of Avignon.

Masson’s death came after the April 23 killing of Stephanie Monferme, a police employee who was stabbed in the town of Rambouillet outside Paris in the latest jihadist attack in France.

There was no immediate indication that the French authorities intended to open a terror probe into Friday’s attack.

But several attacks over the last year have reignited concerns about the spread of radical Islam inside France and immigration.

In September, a Pakistani man wounded two people with a meat cleaver outside the former offices of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo which had printed cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed.

On October 16, a young Chechen refugee beheaded teacher Samuel Paty who had showed some of the caricatures to his pupils.

And on October 29, three people were killed when a recently arrived Tunisian went on a stabbing spree in a church in the Mediterranean city of Nice.

In the most severe recent attack against French police, three officers and one police employee were stabbed to death in October 2019 by a IT specialist colleague who was himself then shot dead. He was later found to have shown an interest in radical Islam.

In France’s deadliest peacetime atrocity, 130 people were killed and 350 were wounded when Islamist suicide bombers and gunmen attacked the Stade de France stadium, bars, and restaurants in central Paris and the Bataclan concert hall in November 2015.

AFP