French chef Boulud’s restaurant

fined $1.3m for wire in food

NEW YORK (AFP): A piece of metal wire in a plate of coq au vin could cost award-winning French chef Daniel Boulud dearly: a jury has fined one of his restaurants $1.3 million after a diner swallowed it and needed emergency surgery. The customer, Barry Brett, went with his wife in February 2015 to db Bistro Moderne on West 44th Street in midtown Manhattan, not far from Times Square.  It is one of several Boulud restaurants in the Big Apple, opening in 2001 and known for its gourmet burgers.  Shortly after he began eating, Brett felt a foreign object lodged in his throat and had to leave the restaurant, according to court documents seen by AFP. The wire eventually caused a potentially fatal infection, his lawyers argued. The surgeon said the inchlong (2.5-centimeter) wire had come from a cheap grill brush.

A New York jury ruled last week that the restaurant had been negligent, awarding Brett $300,000 and fining the restaurant an additional $1 million in punitive damages. Another $11,000 went to Brett’s wife.

J.P. Bottari, a lawyer for the restaurant, said he planned to appeal.

“This was not intentional,” he said, adding that Brett had waited four days to go to the hospital.

Brett’s attorney Elizabeth Eilender said she was “very pleased that the jury recognized how seriously injured Mr Brett was as result of that brush and how dangerous it is for a wire brush to be used around food.”

“The restaurant never wanted to take responsibility for what happened and blamed the victim,” she said.

Boulud has made New York his hub since the 1980s, but also runs restaurants in Boston, Las Vegas, London, Miami, Montreal, Palm Beach, Singapore, Toronto and Washington.




Obama to hand digital

keys to successor

WASHINGTON (AFP): The White House announced plans Monday for the transfer of power, online power that is - in the form of Twitter and other social media accounts with millions of followers. “The handle @POTUS will be made available to the 45th President of the United States on January 20, 2017,” deputy chief digital officer Kori Schulman wrote, fittingly, in a blog post. Obama’s White House has aggressively used social media to bypass journalists and appeal unfiltered and unfact-checked to voters. Obama has granted a host of interviews with platforms like Snapchat and YouTube to talk about his administration’s priorities while avoiding the most bothersome questions. The administration has logged nearly 30,000 @WhiteHouse tweets and thousands of hours of video footage. The new president, whoever he or she is, will inherit a potent digital megaphone. The @POTUS handle alone has more than 11 million followers, and the White House more than 12 million.



German YouTube alive with sound

of music after copyright deal

FRANKFURT (AFP): One of the world’s most restrictive countries on access to music videos opened up on Tuesday as YouTube announced a deal with musicians’ body GEMA to pay when people stream music in Germany. YouTube users in the country had for years been confronted with a red sad-face emoticon and messages announcing “this video is not available in Germany” when trying to view videos ranging from the latest pop clips to films with GEMA-controlled background music. Now the blockages should largely be a thing of the past. “Hell has frozen over!” wrote one Twitter user in response to the news. “Listen to all the music!” said another. Tuesday’s deal will see YouTube pay an undisclosed amount for music belonging to the roughly 70,000 German artists represented by GEMA - as well as many foreign artists - each time their songs are played. “Authors, composers and music publishers will be paid fairly,” YouTube executive Christophe Muller said in a statement.

GEMA and the Google subsidiary had been wrangling since 2009 - at times in court - over how musicians should be paid for their work being streamed after a previous licensing agreement expired.

A court ruled in 2012 that YouTube should install filters preventing users uploading copyrighted music without permission - on pain of a 250,000-euro ($275,000) fine per infraction.

But the latest court case launched by the music licensing organisation, in which it claimed 0.375 euro cents from the video site for each time a song was played, failed in January this year.

Ten months later, the two sides have reached an agreement, although neither released details of the amount artists would receive per play.

“There was an appropriate, good offer,” GEMA spokeswoman Ursula Goebel told AFP.




Oil, gas production linked to

20th-century LA quakes

WASHINGTON (AFP): Oil and gas production may have contributed to four of the five most powerful Los Angeles Basin earthquakes of the early 20th-century oil boom, a new study showed Monday. Scientists said the Inglewood earthquakes in 1920, Whittier quakes in 1929, Santa Monica in 1930 and Long Beach in 1933 may have all been caused by oil activities. Oil or gas work started in these areas shortly before these earthquakes struck, according to Susan Hough and Morgan Page of the US Geological Survey, who wrote the study in the Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America. The researchers did not show direct causation. “What they showed is that the conditions are such that the earthquakes could well have been triggered by oil pumping activity,” explained David Jackson, professor emeritus of seismology at the University of California, Los Angeles, who was not involved in the study. The most powerful of the quakes - in Long Beach, near Los Angeles - registered at 6.4 on the Richter scale. It killed 120 people and caused $50 million in damage in 1933.

The findings that human activity was at play could lead scientists to revise estimates of seismic risks in the Los Angeles Basin and improve understanding of the effects of oil and gas as trigger mechanisms for earthquake elsewhere.

“Maybe the Los Angeles Basin is geologically more stable than is currently estimated,” Hough said.

Previous studies had concluded that there was no indication of other earthquakes caused by human activity in this area of California after 1935 when output slowed.

For their research, scientists relied on a set of geological research, oil industry data, government agencies and newspaper articles from the time.

“This study brings in the idea that oil and gas production activities can generate large-magnitude earthquakes,” said Richard Allen, director of the Seismological Laboratory at the University of California, Berkeley, who also was not involved in the study.

“We need to start recognizing that there’s a growing body of evidence that oil and gas production activities can generate large-magnitude, damaging earthquakes. And that’s something we should all take very seriously.”

The scientists urged against comparing these California earthquakes, which were potentially related to oil and gas drilling, to present-day temblors in Oklahoma and Texas apparently caused by fracking, a process involving injecting massive amounts of waste water into very deep wells.

There were nearly a thousand earthquakes of at least magnitude three in Oklahoma last year, compared to an average of two per year between 1978 and 2008 in that state.

In September, Oklahoma recorded the strongest earthquake in its annals with a magnitude of 5.8.




Malaysia rescuers find Aussie

hiker after two-week ordeal

KUALA LUMPUR (AFP) - An Australian hiker who went missing for nearly two weeks after losing his bearings in remote Malaysian jungle was found by rescuers on Tuesday and taken to hospital, police said. Andrew Gaskell, 26, had set off alone on October 20 into Mulu National Park, which is at the heart of vast and rugged rain forests on Borneo island. Gaskell got lost after eschewing local park regulations requiring that visitors take a guide, district police officer-in-charge Gabriel Marudi told AFP by phone. But he was found on Tuesday afternoon after a nearly week-long jungle search by around 40 rescue personnel. Gaskell was thin and weak and had an injured foot but was flown by helicopter to the town of Miri and was expected to recover, Marudi said. “It was very lucky for him to be found still alive after such a long time,” said Marudi, adding he had no further details on how Gaskell survived. Mulu National Park is a UNESCO world heritage site famed for some of the world’s largest caves, striking limestone karst pinnacles above ground and dense jungle.