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‘Lightyear’ banned in 14 markets after same-sex kiss controversy

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To infinity and beyond - but not to the 14 markets, that have refused to grant a release to 'Lightyear'
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Disney’s latest animation “Lightyear,” which features a same-sex kiss, has been denied release in more than a dozen mainly Muslim countries, a source close to the company told AFP on Tuesday.

Countries across Asia and the Middle East have refused to give Pixar’s “Toy Story” spinoff a showing, in the latest development for parent company Disney as it tries to navigate differing public and political attitudes on LGBTQ issues.

Regulators in the United Arab Emirates this week announced they were banning the movie for “violation of the country’s media content standards,” tweeting a picture of titular hero Buzz Lightyear in a red “No” symbol.

Indonesia — the world’s largest Muslim-majority country — said it had not banned the film, “but suggested the owner of the movie think about their audience in Indonesia where an LGBT kissing scene is still considered sensitive.” 

Rommy Fibri Hardiyanto, head of Indonesia’s censoring office overseen by the Ministry of Education and Culture, told AFP that Disney has not offered a re-cut version of “Lightyear.”

In neighbouring Malaysia, the Film Censorship Board said if cuts were not made the film would not be screened in the country.

“It is not appropriate to show the two scenes, and they are not suitable to be viewed by children,” an official, who declined to be named, told AFP.

Disney is understood to have declined to make any cuts, offering the film “as is” in all markets.

As a result, a total of 14 countries and territories where the company wanted to show “Lightyear” have not granted the film a release, AFP has learned.

The others are: Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, the Palestinian Territories, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Syria.

– Backstory –

“Lightyear” tells the backstory of the main character from the hit franchise “Toy Story”, an action figure who believes he is real.

The film follows Buzz Lightyear — supposedly the astronaut adventurer that inspired the figurine — as he and his fellow space rangers crash land on a hostile planet.

One scene depicts Buzz’s best friend Alisha Hawthorne kissing her wife.

The scene was already the subject of controversy in the United States, where it had originally been cut from the final film.

Pixar and Disney backtracked after employees called them out, saying one of the world’s largest entertainment companies was not sufficiently committed to defending the rights of LGBTQ people.

The controversy came on the heels of a law adopted in Florida, where Disney employs some 75,000 people, which bans the discussion of sexual orientation in public schools. The company was initially silent on the measure.

Under pressure from the public and his own employees, Disney CEO Bob Chapek eventually denounced the so-called “Don’t Say Gay” law, but in doing so drew the ire of Republican lawmakers in the state.

Conservative politicians are now seeking to remove certain perks the company has long enjoyed.

The episode has led to Disney becoming a whipping boy for right-wing media, where the name is shorthand for what they say is performative “wokeness.”

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Eletrobras goes private with Bolsonaro bell ring

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Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro (C) ringing the bell at the Brazilian B3 Stock Exchange, in Sao Paulo, Brazil, on June 14 2022 to open trading on the newly privatized Electrobras company Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro on Tuesday sealed the privatisation process of Eletrobras, Latin America's largest electricity company, with a symbolic bell ringing on the Sao Paulo stock exchange, where new shares were offered, reducing the state's shareholding.
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Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro rang the bell at the Sao Paulo stock exchange Tuesday to mark the start of trading in shares of newly privatized electricity company Eletrobras, the second-biggest stock offering worldwide this year.

The launch dilutes the Brazilian government’s stake in Eletrobras, Latin America’s biggest electricity company, from 72 percent to 45 percent.

It is part of Bolsonaro’s plans to privatize state-run companies en masse — a promise he has largely failed to deliver on nearing the end of his four-year term and facing an uphill battle to win reelection in October.

The share offering raised around 30 billion reais ($6 billion).

Economy Minister Paulo Guedes hailed it as a victory for private-sector efficiency.

“The biggest clean-energy generating company in the world is now free,” he said at the event.

“It’s like a child who left home at 18 and is going to go out and triumph. It no longer needs the protection of the state, which was becoming detrimental.”

Bolsonaro grinned and embraced Guedes as a hail of confetti fell, but did not speak at the event.

Guedes says Eletrobras needs to invest 16 billion reais a year to maintain its market share, but was previously only managing around three billion reais a year.

Critics worry the privatization could lead to higher bills for customers.

The event drew a small protest by dozens of demonstrators outside the stock exchange.

The Bolsonaro administration has also voiced interest recently in privatizing oil firm Petrobras, the biggest company in Brazil.

The state-run firm has drawn the far-right president’s ire with a series of recent price increases that are fueling high inflation.

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Tampon shortage latest sign of supply chain issues in US stores

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Tampons are in short supply in stores across the United States due to global supply chain issues and some panic buying
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Tampons are the latest product disappearing from store shelves in the United States, another illustration of supply chain problems that are complicating daily life, following the troubling shortage of baby formula.

Drugstore chains CVS and Walgreens confirmed in messages to AFP that some brands of tampons are temporarily unavailable in some areas.

Procter & Gamble, which makes the ubiquitous Tampax line among other products, said customers might not be able to find their usual brand in American stores.

“We understand it is frustrating for consumers when they can’t find what they need. We can assure you this is a temporary situation in the US, and the Tampax team is producing tampons 24/7 to meet the increased demand for our products,” they said in a statement.

Walgreens said it was working with suppliers to “ensure we have supply available” in all its stores.

And CVS said that “if a local store is temporarily out of specific products, we work to replenish those items as quickly as possible.”

The situation has been going on for months, but has gotten increasing media attention in the past few days.

Patrick Penfield, a supply chain management specialist at Syracuse University, says demand has increased recently in particular because of additional purchases by consumers who see the shortage of certain brands and panic that they won’t be able to get more product.

He compared it to people stockpiling toilet paper at the start of the pandemic.

There is also a shortage of certain raw materials, including cotton and plastic, he said.

“This is the third straight year where demand for cotton in the US has exceeded what US firms are producing,” Penfield said, pointing to the increased need for masks and personal protection equipment (PPE).

In addition, some factories are struggling to operate at full capacity due to staff shortages or Covid-19 spikes, he said.

But the situation is different from the baby formula shortage: initially caused by supply chain snarls and labor shortages, formula supplies dropped sharply when manufacturer Abbott shut down one Michigan plant in February and issued a product recall after the death of two babies raised concerns over contamination.

When it comes to tampons, “the factories are operating,” Penfield said, predicting a return to normal within the next six months.

In the meantime, the shortage has offered Republicans a new angle of attack against US President Joe Biden, with the Republican National Committee slamming “Biden’s war on women” on Twitter.

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UK scraps subsidies for electric plug-in cars

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Britain's Department for Transport said it will end the current £1,500 ($1,800) subsidy for buyers of new plug-in cars as it focuses on other types of electric vehicles, such as taxis and trucks
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Britain on Tuesday axed its £1,500 ($1,800) subsidy for buyers of new plug-in cars as it focuses on other types of electric vehicles, but the news drew anger from the auto sector.

“The government is today closing the plug-in car grant scheme to new orders after successfully kickstarting the UK’s electric car revolution,” the Department for Transport (DfT) said in a statement.

The grant was launched in 2011 to help encourage Britons to ditch high-polluting diesel and petrol cars.

It has since supported the sale of almost half a million electric cars, the DfT added, stressing that the subsidy was always a “temporary” policy.

Sales of fully electric cars rocketed from less than 1,000 in 2011 to almost 100,000 vehicles in the first five months of this year alone.

However, the government is now switching its focus to offer subsidies on sales of new plug-in electric taxis, motorcycles, vans, trucks and wheelchair-accessible vehicles.

Britain plans to ban new sales of diesel and petrol cars in the UK from 2030, as part of its goal to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

Tuesday’s announcement drew stark criticism from industry body the Society of Motor Manufacturers & Traders (SMMT).

“The decision to scrap the plug-in car grant sends the wrong message to motorists and to an industry which remains committed to government’s net zero ambition,” said SMMT boss Mike Hawes.

“Whilst we welcome government’s continued support for new electric van, taxi and adapted vehicle buyers, we are now the only major European market to have zero upfront purchase incentives for EV car buyers.”

Britain’s automobile sector had stalled last year on pandemic fallout including a semiconductor shortage.

However, greener electric vehicles now account for one in six new car sales.

That rises to just over half of all new car sales, if hybrid vehicles are included.

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