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by MediaExpert

San Francisco Chef First in US to Receive 3 Michelin Stars

A San Francisco chef is the first woman in the United States to be awarded three stars from the Michelin Guide.

Dominique Crenn celebrated the honor on Instagram Thursday with her staff at Atelier Crenn, posting “congratulations to my amazing team.”


It was not the only honor for Crenn in Michelin’s Bay Area guide. Michelin also awarded one star to her new wine bar, Bar Crenn.


One star means “a very good restaurant,” while three stars signify “exceptional cuisine that is worth a special journey.”


Michelin’s international director Gwendal Poullennec tells The Mercury News it sends a “very positive message.” Poullennec says Michelin hopes “it will lead to more women operating their own restaurants.”



by MediaExpert

FIFA Bans Former Soccer Official for 4 Years in Bribery Case

FIFA’s ethics committee has imposed a four-year ban on a soccer official for accepting a bribe, reportedly from former presidential candidate Mohamed bin Hammam.

FIFA says Manuel Dende, former president of the Sao Tomean Football Association, is also fined 75,000 Swiss francs ($75,000).


FIFA gave no details about the charges Dende faced, of bribery and corruption plus accepting gifts.


Dende took a $50,000 cash gift from Bin Hammam, according to authors of “The Ugly Game” book about the now-banned Qatari official’s dealings at FIFA.  


In 2009, the book states, Dende asked Bin Hammam for $232,000 in his personal bank account to help build artificial pitches on his home island in west Africa.


Citing Bin Hammam correspondence, the book said $50,000 was eventually wired months later.

by MediaExpert

Tenor Nelson Ebo Hopes to Inspire More Opera Fans in Africa

Angola’s most famous operatic tenor hopes to inspire more Africans to take up the classical music form. Nelson Ebo has performed around the world and is currently starring with the Heartbeat Opera company on stage in New York. He recently sang in Washington, where VOA Portuguese Service’s Mayra de Lassalette met up with him.

by MediaExpert

Writers’ Group Won’t Honor Prosecutor Tied to Central Park 5

The Mystery Writers of America withdrew a major honor Thursday from author Linda Fairstein after other writers condemned the ex-prosecutor’s role in New York’s notorious “Central Park Five” case. 

The decision, just two days after the Grand Master Award was announced, marked the first time the group has ever rescinded the prize, which recognizes lifetime achievement and has been given to such scribes as Sue Grafton and Stephen King. 

“MWA cannot move forward with an award that lacks the support of such a large percentage of our members,” the group said in a statement that also pledged to re-evaluate its process for selecting honorees. 

Fairstein, known for her best-selling novels featuring prosecutor Alex Cooper, was speaking at a conference Thursday and referred an inquiry to her publisher, Penguin Publishing Group’s Dutton imprint. It had no immediate comment. 

When the award was announced Tuesday, Fairstein called it “a thrilling surprise.”

“I’m pinching myself,” she tweeted at the time. 

But some prominent mystery writers, including Attica Locke and Nick Kolakowski, expressed outrage over the decision. On Thursday, Locke tweeted “Thank you (at)EdgarAwards for listening.” 

Fairstein was the top Manhattan sex crimes prosecutor when five teenagers were charged with the 1989 rape and beating of a female investment banker jogging in Central Park. 

The attack became a national symbol of urban mayhem at a time when New York City’s murder rate was nearing its historical peak. The case also bared the city’s racial and class divide, painting a portrait of a crew of black and Hispanic youths “wilding” and preying on a white professional. Donald Trump, a New York real estate developer at the time, bought full-page newspaper ads reading “Bring Back The Death Penalty. Bring Back Our Police!”

The teens said they were coerced into confessing their involvement in the attack. Their convictions were overturned in 2002 after convicted murderer and serial rapist Matias Reyes confessed to committing the crime alone, and DNA linked him to it. 

Prosecutors stopped short of declaring the five innocent but withdrew all charges. The legal time clock had run out for charging Reyes, who was already serving life in prison on other convictions. 

Fairstein observed the boys’ 1989 interrogation, conducted by another prosecutor and police. She didn’t personally try the case. 

Since its collapse, she has denied the teens were coerced and has defended authorities’ conduct in the case, explored in a 2013 documentary by Ken Burns. 

The city reached a roughly $41 million settlement with the five the next year, while not admitting any wrongdoing. 

Locke and Fairstein exchanged caustic tweets after the award was announced. Locke, who is working with Ava DuVernay on a Netflix docudrama about the case, called Fairstein “almost singlehandedly responsible for the wrongful incarceration of the Central Park Five” and castigated her for not apologizing. 

Fairstein responded by tweeting Locke should “learn your facts,” adding: “Your anger and comments are so misdirected.” 

Fairstein built a reputation as a pioneering prosecutor of sexual offenses during her 25 years of leading the Manhattan district attorney’s sex crimes unit. She retired in 2002, but was already established as a crime novelist.

In 1995, she agreed to a two-book, $500,000 deal. Her first novel, “Final Jeopardy,” came out in 1996 and was the basis for an Edgar-nominated TV miniseries starring Dana Delany. Her other books include “Killer Look,” “Devil’s Bridge” and “Lethal Legacy.”

by MediaExpert

Norway’s Magnus Carlsen Retains World Chess Title

Norway’s Magnus Carlsen has solidified his claim to be the greatest chess player in the world.

Carlsen beat Fabiano Caruana of the United States 3-0 Wednesday in a rapid-chess tiebreaker game at the world chess championships in London.

Carlsen and Caruana played to 12 draws in their series of championship matches that started Nov. 9, games that lasted as long as seven hours each.

They decided to settle the impasse in games of speed chess, in which each player is given just 25 minutes to try to beat his opponent.

After the long excruciating series of ties topped off by three speed games, Carlsen would only say that he had a “really good day,” while Caruana admitted that he “had a bad day.”

Carlsen takes home a $621,000 prize while Caruana pockets $508,000.

Carlsen has been the world chess champion since 2013, when he took the title from India’s Viswanathan Anand.

Caruana was hoping to become the first American to win the title since 1972, when Bobby Fischer defeated the Soviet Union’s Boris Spassky in a thrilling series of matches that made global headlines.

by MediaExpert

Chinese Photographer Missing Since Trip to Xinjiang     

Chinese photographer Lu Guang has gone missing during a visit to China’s Xinjiang province.

Lu’s wife Xu Xiaoli, who is in the United States, set up a Twitter account this week to spread information about the disappearance of the award-winning photojournalist, who covers sensitive issues in China, such as pollution, poverty, and AIDS.

Xu said Lu had been missing since Nov. 3 after disappearing during a trip to attend several photography events in China.  He was expected to meet a friend in Sichuan on Nov. 5, but failed to appear.  Xu says the wife of Lu’s host in Xinjiang said he had been taken away by national security agents.

A friend of the couple, Chinese artist Wu Yuren, told VOA that Xu considered traveling to China to search for her husband.  Wu said he managed to talk Xu into staying in the United States to publicize his disappearance. 

“We were all very shocked,” Wu told VOA’s Mandarin service.  “Ever since we came to the U.S., it’s rare to hear about someone we know disappeared like this.” 

Wu said Lu may have fallen prey to media suppression in China.  “He thought he had the experience of dealing with this,” Wu said, “But he could not have imagined how bad the situation is now.”

Xu told Radio Free Asia she has been calling officials in Xinjiang in search of word of her husband, but no one has picked up on the phone numbers published online.

Sophie Richardson, China director of Human Rights Watch, told VOA “the Chinese government has a long history of simply taking people whose views it doesn’t like, literally off the grid and disappearing them.” 

She continued, “I think every time this happens, authorities diminish their claim that this country is governed by rule of law.” 

The Associated Press cites Chinese officials as confirming that Lu and a fellow photographer were taken away by Xinjiang state security agents.

Xinjiang has recently been the subject of international concern, after news reports spread word that China has constructed internment camps there to conduct “re-education” of Muslim Uighurs and other ethnic groups.

A representative for Amnesty International, Patrick Poon, told Radio Free Asia that international concern caused by those reports has influenced the Chinese government to try to shut down information coming from the area.

Lu is the winner of a number of photojournalism awards, including the World Press Photo, a National Geographic Photography grant, and China’s highest domestic photography award.  He holds a U.S. “green card” (permission to work in the United States) and in 2005 became the first photographer from China to be invited by the U.S. State Department as a visiting scholar. 

VOA Mandarin service contributed to this report. 

by MediaExpert

Predator Cities Fight for Survival in Peter Jackson’s ‘Mortal Engines’

Oscar-winning filmmaker Peter Jackson is returning to the big screen with adventure fantasy “Mortal Engines,” a post-apocalyptic tale of survival in his first feature film project since his award-winning adaptations of J.R.R. Tolkien’s novels.

The New Zealand-born director, known for his “The Lord of the Rings” and “The Hobbit” trilogies, produced and co-wrote the script for the film, based on the young adult book series by Philip Reeve.

Oscar-winning visual effects artist Christian Rivers, who worked with Jackson on the Tolkien adaptations as well as 2005’s “King Kong” makes his directorial in the film, set hundreds of years after a catastrophic event wipes out civilizations.

“Once ‘The Hobbit’ was done, we were looking forward to getting this made,” Jackson told Reuters at the film’s premiere in London on Tuesday.

“I didn’t want (Rivers) to make his first feature with somebody else … I wanted to be part of helping him get his feature film career off the ground … He’s done an amazing job.”

In the film, humans live in gigantic moving cities which devour smaller towns. A group made up of an outlaw, outcast and mysterious woman lead a rebellion against one such predator city, London.

“It was the fear of saying yes because I knew how much work it would be and it was also a fear of saying no, if I said no and someone else made it and it wasn’t any good, I’d be kicking myself,” Rivers said about directing “Mortal Engines.” “It was a freight train, it was a big film that came in and I had to jump on and take the ride.”

On top of his work in the art department, Rivers was a second unit director on the last two “Hobbit” films, the last of which came out in 2014.

Since then, Jackson directed World War I documentary “They Shall Not Grow Old”, released this month.

“Mortal Engines” features a young cast led by Icelandic actress Hera Hilmar. “Matrix” and “The Hobbit” actor Hugo Weaving also stars in the film.

by MediaExpert

200 Years of ‘Silent Night’: Singers Mark Carol’s Birthday

One of the most famous songs of Christmas was celebrated Tuesday as it approaches its 200th anniversary, with a concert at the New York City church where “Silent Night” is believed to have been sung in the United States for the first time and where a priest was the first to publish an English translation of the Austrian carol.


The performance of the carol by Austria’s Kroell Family Singers and ensembles from Trinity Church took place at the Alexander Hamilton memorial in the Trinity churchyard. The singers stood in front of the memorial in the darkened yard as onlookers gathered and horns from passing cars beeped on nearby streets.


The Kroell singers opened the carol with verses in the original German, followed by the Trinity singers with verses in languages including French, Spanish, and finally English. After the outdoor performance, they went inside the church, where the Austrian group sang some other songs before they finished with another rendition of “Silent Night.”


The song resonates with people because of its simple melody and straightforward message, said Elisabeth Frontull, a member of the Kroell group.


“You sing it from the bottom of your heart; that’s the reason why the song is so popular,” she said.


Organizers of the event said it’s believed the song was first sung at the Trinity Church location in 1839 by the Rainer family singers, a traveling singing group from Austria.


“Silent Night” initially debuted as a musical piece in December 1818, with words by Joseph Mohr, a priest, and music by Franz Xaver Gruber, in Oberndorf, Austria.


In 1859, a priest at Trinity, John Freeman Young, published the first English translation of three verses of the carol, including the well-known first verse that ends with “sleep in heavenly peace.”


It has become one of the most recorded songs in the world and declared as part of Austria’s cultural heritage.


To mark its anniversary, Austrian tourism organizations put together a number of events in that country, including concert and exhibitions.


The concert at Trinity — a historic church and tourist attraction that survived the destruction of the nearby World Trade Center in 2001 — was the only stateside event done through that effort, said Sigrid Pichler, spokeswoman for New York City’s Austrian Tourist Office.


“It touches the hearts of people deeply,” she said. “It’s a very simple song, it has an eternal message of peace. It is also something that the whole world needs to hear.”

by MediaExpert

Stevie Wonder Announces Plan to Help California Fire Victims

Stevie Wonder wants to raise money through his benefit concert for California fire victims impacted by the catastrophic wildfires.

The R&B legend announced his plan Tuesday to also help firefighters and first responders who assisted with the fires through his 22nd annual House Full of Toys Benefit Concert on Dec. 9. The charity billed as “The Stevie Wonder Song Party: A Celebration of Life, Love & Music” will be held at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. 

Concertgoers are being asked to bring an unwrapped toy or other gift. 

“We have to do our best to raise money for those that have been so less fortunate, for those that have lost dreams, lost their homes,” he said. “I am very happy to do this again this year but very, very, very excited to do something to help those in a bigger sense the less fortunate.”

Wonder said his foundation House Full of Hope along with the Entertainment Industry Foundation will also help raise money for those affected by the wildfire.

Nearly 90 people were killed in the massive wildfires as thousands have been displaced from their homes.

After his announcement, Wonder performed a few songs including “My Cherie Amour,” “The Christmas Song (Merry Christmas to You)” and “Golden Lady.”

Wonder also spoke on the importance of taking care of the planet.

“I know we’re dealing with a drought,” he said. “There are some who don’t believe in global warming. I do. We have to protect the planet. We have to be cognizant of what we do. … I pray that all of us, even those who are non-believers, understand that if we don’t love and take care of our planet, we won’t have it.”

The lineup for this year’s charity has not been announced. Last year’s performers included Tony Bennett, Pharrell Williams and Andra Day. 

by MediaExpert

‘The Rider’ Tops Gotham Awards, Kicking Off Awards Season

In the first major soiree of Hollywood’s awards season, Chloe Zhao’s elegiac, lyrical Western “The Rider” took best feature film at the 28th annual Gotham Awards. 

It was a surprising, but far from baffling conclusion to the Gothams, the New York-based gala for independent film, held Monday night at Cipriani’s Wall Street in downtown Manhattan. The awards were generally spread around, including a pair of prizes for Bo Burnham’s coming-of-age directing debut “Eighth Grade” and Paul Schrader’s impassioned Catholic drama “First Reformed.”

But the night’s final honor went to “The Rider,” the second feature by the Chinese-born Zhao, despite no previous awards on the night and only one other nomination: an audience award nod alongside 14 other films. Some may have forgotten it was eligible. Having first premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in May 2017, “The Rider” was nominated by the Gotham’s West Coast corollary, the Independent Film Spirit Awards, in February as one of last year’s best. 

Zhao, too, wasn’t in attendance (she is prepping her next film). And few looked more surprised than the producers — Bert Hamelinck and Mollye Asher — who accepted the award. “This is going to be the worst acceptance speech,” stuttered Hamelinck. 

Yet “The Rider,” filmed with Lakota cowboys on South Dakota’s Pine Ridge Reservation, persevered over a few Oscar favorites, including Yorgos Lanthimos’ period romp “The Favourite” and Barry Jenkins’ James Baldwin adaptation “If Beale Street Could Talk.” 

“The Favourite” still went home with two honorary awards: an award for its acting ensemble, led by Olivia Colman, Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz; and a tribute to Weisz. Jenkins applauded the choice of “The Rider’’ with a standing ovation and a retweet of his earlier praise of the film, in which he called it “ravishing, sublime imagery paired with deeply earnest storytelling.” 

Unpredictability pervaded the ceremony, especially for the winners, themselves. When the Fred Rogers documentary “Won’t You Be My Neighbor” won the Gothams’ audience award (not typically a category for documentaries but “Won’t You Be My Neighbor” proved a modest summer blockbuster), its director Morgan Neville was stunned, partially since he had already lost best documentary to RaMell Ross’ “Hale County This Morning, This Evening.” 

“To say this was a surprise would be an extreme understatement,” Neville said. “Since I didn’t know we were nominated.” 

As an Oscar bellwether, the Gothams, presented by the not-for-profit Independent Film Project , are of little value. Their nominees are chosen by small juries of filmmakers and film critics before some of the fall’s films have been seen. 

But in the early going, any momentum helps an underdog Oscar campaign, and that seemed especially true of “First Reformed” and “Eighth Grade” — both releases from A24, the indie distributor of “Moonlight” and “Lady Bird.” 

“First Reformed” star Ethan Hawke took best actor and its 72-year-old writer-director Schrader (“Taxi Driver,” “Raging Bull”) won best screenplay. 

“Fourteen years. Best attendance. Sunday school,” said Schrader, who chose filmmaking over the seminary but remained gripped by his Calvinist upbringing. “I earned this award.”

Burnham’s “Eighth Grade,” starring 15-year-old Elsie Fisher, won for both breakthrough director and breakthrough actor. 

“I’m pretty sure this was a glitch in the system or something,” began Fisher, who said she had been considering giving up on acting before Burnham cast her. “Me from two years ago would be really proud of me right now.” 

Tributes were also paid to “At Eternity’s Gate” star Willem Dafoe, “22 July” director Paul Greengrass and RadicalMedia founder Jon Kamen. But one of the night’s abiding themes was who wasn’t there. Toni Collette, star of the horror film “Hereditary,” wasn’t on hand to collect her best actress award. And Weisz was the only star of “The Favourite” there for the film’s ensemble award. 

Weisz held up cardboard paddles of Colman and Stone’s faces and read statements from each claiming that they were the real standout in Lanthimos’ triangular tale of a power struggle in Queen Anne’s 18th century court. 

“Considering that I’m the only one to turn up,” Weisz concluded, “I think I might be the favorite.” 

by MediaExpert

Momoa and Heard Take to Seas in Superhero Film ‘Aquaman’

“Game of Thrones” actor Jason Momoa brings the latest superhero spin-off to the big screen, this time “Aquaman,” to tell the story of the DC Comics half-human, half-Atlantean character.

The 39-year-old first made an appearance in the role in 2016’s “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” but now has his own movie exploring the superhero’s origins.

Momoa portrays the character, known as Arthur Curry, as he embarks on a journey of self-discovery, and with plenty of action and special effects, viewers are taken to the underwater world of the seven seas.

Walking a blue carpet – in line with the film’s aquatic theme – at the film’s world premiere in London on Monday, Momoa said the role was the toughest he had undertaken so far.

“Physically it’s just really challenging and demanding to do the stunts and then stay in shape,” the actor told Reuters, adding he identified with the character for various reasons including “being an outcast.”

“I had two stunt doubles. I’ve never had stunt doubles really ever…This had so many stunts.”

The film also stars “The Rum Diary” and “Magic Mike XXL” actress Amber Heard as warrior Mera. Dressed in a floor-length green dress with matching head cap, Heard said she was not keen at first on doing a superhero film.

“I was pretty allergic to the idea…In my very limited experience with that world, I didn’t see intuitively what that would have to appeal to me,” she said. “I’m interested in complex nuanced roles that depict women in more accurate and more organic ways. And then the creators called me (saying) she’s a warrior queen.I was like.. ‘OK, I’m interested.'”