Russia rates Disney’s ‘Beauty and Beast’ 16+ for ‘gay moment’

A spokesman for the culture ministry said the “film is coming out with a 16+ age certificate,” RIA Novosti news agency reported.

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The film’s director Bill Condon has revealed that it contains Disney’s “first exclusively gay moment”, although some critics have said this was less than overwhelming.

Disney had previously announced the film as a 6+ in its promotional campaign for Russia, where it is due to come out March 16.

Walt Disney Company Russia & CIS confirmed the 16+ age rating in a statement sent to AFP. A spokeswoman said the company would not make any  comment.

National lawmaker Vitaly Milonov on Saturday asked Culture Minister Vladimir Medinsky to check the film for breaches of a controversial law that bans “gay propaganda” to minors.

Milonov was one of the chief architects of the law that President Vladimir Putin signed in 2013 despite a storm of international condemnation.

Milonov said Tuesday he was pleased with the age restriction. He said it aims to impose “new European standards of tolerance so (children) think this is all the norm.”

In his letter to the culture minister, Milonov called the Disney film “blatant, shameless propaganda of sin and perverted sexual relationships.”

He called for it to be banned from cinemas if it was found to contain “elements of propaganda of homosexuality.”

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The law bans disseminating information that could interest minors in “non-traditional sexual relationships.” It has been used as a pretext to ban gay pride events.

With outspoken views, Milonov has attacked everything from Facebook to the Eurovision Song Contest and called for the creation of a morality police to fine people who violate “traditional values”.

Russia decriminalised homosexuality in 1993 and only in 1999 lifted its classification as a mental illnesses. 

the news about the possible ban of beauty and the beast in russia was on this dutch news for children, they replied in an amazing way 💖 pic.twitter长沙桑拿按摩论坛,/b61dMqZOQU

— richelle (@joyfulbrooke) March 7, 2017

House prices not in a bubble: Westpac boss

Reserve Bank governor Philip Lowe may be losing sleep over house prices, but the head of one of the nation’s biggest banks doesn’t believe there’s a housing bubble in Sydney or Melbourne.

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Like federal Treasurer Scott Morrison, Westpac boss Brian Hartzer thinks the sharp rise in property valuations is due to supply constraints.

Facing a parliamentary committee in Canberra on Wednesday, Mr Hartzer says in his mind a housing bubble is when people believe prices only go up, start borrowing to buy a house and sell it within a year, only to buy a bigger property.

“That to me is the definition of a bubble, a credit-fuelled speculative bubble,” he told MPs.

“I don’t think that’s what’s happening in Sydney or Melbourne.”

The Westpac boss was the last big bank chief to appear in the latest parliamentary review of the big four banks.

During a hearing on Tuesday, Commonwealth Bank chief executive Ian Narev said he did not believe home buyers thought the market was overpriced.

He thought they were saying it was difficult to afford it, a view he shared.

The treasurer will make housing affordability a major focus of his May budget but says supply is a key factor, not just for first-time buyers, but for low-income families and renters more generally.

Mr Hartzer said what was happening in the nation’s two biggest cities is the consequence of severe supply constraints running into a significant step up in demand from foreign buyers.

“There has been a significant ramp-up in construction and a big chunk of that has probably been targeting overseas buyers whose desire for the nature of the property isn’t necessarily the quality local buyers would want,” he told MPs.

However, as a result of a crackdown in China on outflows of capital, a number of these developments where foreign buyers have put money down on an apartment are now having trouble settling.

“That is potentially creating a bit of a glut of supply which may or may not be what the local buyers want to buy and are taking a lot longer to clear.”

Mr Hartzer’s comments came after a recent warning by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development of the potential danger facing the Australian economy from ballooning house prices.

The Paris-based organisation reiterated the warning in a new report on Tuesday, not just for Australia, but also for Canada, Sweden and the UK, which have all endured a similar housing experience.

“As past experience has shown, a rapid rise of house prices can be a precursor of an economic downturn,” it says.

How to stop your TV spying on you

The publication by WikiLeaks of documents it says are from the CIA’s secret hacking program describe tools that can turn a world of increasingly networked, camera- and microphone-equipped devices into eavesdroppers.

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Smart televisions and cars now have on-board computers and microphones, joining the ubiquitous smartphones, laptops and tablets that have had microphones and cameras as standard equipment for a decade. That the CIA has created tools to turn them into listening posts surprises no one in the security community.

Q: How worried should consumers be who have surrounded themselves with these devices?

A: Importantly, the intrusion tools highlighted by the leak do not appear to be instruments of mass surveillance. So, it’s not as if everyone’s TV or high-tech vehicle is at risk.

“These are tools that appear to be targeted at specific people’s (devices) by compromising the software on them – as opposed to tools that decrypt the encrypted traffic over the internet,” says Matt Blaze, University of Pennsylvania computer scientist.

“Q: Once devices are compromised they need to be internet-connected in order to share collected intelligence with spies. What can be done to stop that?

A: Not much if you don’t want to sacrifice the benefits of the device.

“Anything that is voice-activated or that has voice- and internet-connected functionality is susceptible to these types of attacks,” says Robert M Lee, a former US cyberwar operations officer.

That includes smart TVs and voice-controlled information devices like the Amazon Echo, which can read news, play music, close the garage door and turn up the thermostat.

To ensure a connected device can’t spy on you, unplug it from the grid and the internet and remove the batteries, if that’s possible. Or perhaps don’t buy it, especially if you don’t require the networked features.

Security experts have found flaws in devices – like WiFi-enabled dolls – with embedded microphones and cameras.

Q: I recently began using WhatsApp and Signal on my smartphone for voice and text communication because of their strong encryption. Can the exploits described in the WikiLeaks documents break them?

A: No. But exploits designed to infiltrate the operating system on your Android smartphone, iPhone, iPad or Windows-based computer can read your messages or listen in on conversations on the compromised device itself, though communications are encrypted in transit.

Q: I’m not a high-value target for intelligence agencies. But I still want to protect myself. How?

A: It may sound boring, but it’s vital: Keep all your operating systems patched and up-to-date, and don’t click links or open email attachments unless you are sure they are safe.

There will always be exploits of which antivirus companies are not aware until it’s too late. These are known as zero-day exploits because no patches are available and victims have zero time to prepare. The CIA, National Security Agency and plenty of other intelligence agencies purchase and develop them.

But they don’t come cheap. And most of us are hardly worth it.

State child abuse reporting lines clogged

State government child protection reporting systems are being clogged by thousands of reports that aren’t serious enough for them to act on, a commission has heard.

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NSW Department of Family Services secretary Michael Coutts-Trotter says the department received 120,000 calls last year that did not meet the “risk of significant harm” threshold.

“In effort terms, that’s about 100 child protection caseworkers working in intake, taking reports we don’t act on as a statutory agency,” he told the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse on Wednesday.

Mr Coutts-Trotter said the department received 150,000 reports that met the threshold, in respect to 75,000 children last year.

The royal commission heard Queensland also had a similar problem with large volumes of calls.

“The effect of there being a large number of reports that don’t meet the threshold means… that children who are the subject of those allegations may receive less priority, attention, than otherwise,” Counsel assisting Gail Furness SC said.

“That’s the risk,” Mr Coutts Trotter replied.

The hearing has in part been investigating how the state, territory and Commonwealth governments have so far responded to the royal commission’s work.

It heard COAG had last year made a commitment to roll out reportable conduct schemes similar to NSW’s, which requires any abuse or assault of a child to be reported to an ombudsman, nationwide.

The scheme also includes audits of how employers respond to allegations.

Reportable conduct arrangements are about to come into force in Victoria and ACT, the royal commission heard.

Weight discrimination prevents exercise

People who think they are discriminated against because of their weight are less likely to exercise than those who do not, a new British study suggests.

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Experts examined information on more than 5400 men and women who took part in the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing.

People who took part in the study reported experiences of weight discrimination in everyday life and frequency of light, moderate and vigorous physical activities.

Almost five per cent of participants reported facing stigma because of their weight.

The researchers, led by a team at University College London, found that among participants who reported weight discrimination, 10.3 per cent reported no regular physical activity and 18.3 per cent reported only light activity at least once a week.

Overall, they found that perceived weight discrimination was associated with almost 60 per cent higher odds of being inactive.

And those who had been stigmatised because of their weight were also 30 per cent less likely to engage in moderate or vigorous activity at least once a week.

“Individuals who perceive discrimination may be more self-conscious about exercising in front of people for fear that it might attract undesirable attention,” the report’s authors wrote.

“Internalisation of weight bias may also result in a loss of self-efficacy and motivation to achieve goals, leaving people wondering why they should bother trying to be active.”

The authors point out that such discrimination can have “harmful consequences” to a person’s emotional well-being.

There is some evidence that people who have suffered discrimination because of their weight are more likely to increase intake of high-fat and high-calorie foods, decrease dietary quality and limit physical activity, they added.

Miners take aim at Finkel energy review

Mining bosses have taken a shot at the independent scientist reviewing the national electricity market following serious blackouts in South Australia.

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The Minerals Council of Australia’s submission to chief scientist Alan Finkel’s review into the electricity market’s future security is highly critical of his preliminary report, saying it ignores the true cost of an emissions intensity scheme, ignores the role of advanced coal power, and only pays lip-service to being technology neutral.

The council also repeatedly says Dr Finkel’s early report, given to governments in December, is wrong to say consumer demand is driving the rising share of renewable energy.

It complains the review’s proposals seem to be “structured … primarily on the integration of renewables as an end itself”.

“The independent review appears to accept price rises to this point as inevitable, yet fails to appreciate the very real impact this will have on Australia’s international competitiveness over the next decade,” the Minerals Council says.

It wants the blanket ban on nuclear power lifted and for the Clean Energy Finance Corporation to be allowed to fund coal generation that includes carbon capture and storage.

The council says replacing Australia’s existing coal plants with advanced ultra-supercritical technology would cut emissions up to 34 per cent.

The CEFC’s guidelines say it can only finance projects that cut emissions by at least 50 per cent and it is explicitly banned in legislation from funding carbon capture and storage projects.

The miners also take aim at the Finkel panel’s apparent preference for an emissions intensity scheme, for which other big businesses, including large energy generators, have spoken of favourably.

Tom Trbojevic stars again in Manly loss

Manly fullback Tom Trbojevic showed again on Saturday why he’s a superstar in the making.

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Despite being on the wrong side of a 38-18 loss to South Sydney, Trbojevic excelled for the Sea Eagles, scoring one try, setting up another and running a colossal 267 metres.

“He’s a great young player,” Manly coach Trent Barrett said.

“He tries his butt off every week.”

That doesn’t do his performance justice.

A week after he lacked impact in the Sea Eagles’ attack against Parramatta, Trbojevic looked dangerous every time he touched the ball on Saturday evening at Lottoland.

The 20-year-old burned Rabbitohs defenders with his speed in his first-half try, taking the score to 12-0 after three early unconverted tries.

Then he brought Manly back into the match early in the second half after a Cody Walker flurry gave the Bunnies an 18-12 half-time lead.

He beat four Rabbitohs defenders after receiving an offload from his brother Jake as he skirted away down field, before finding Daly Cherry-Evans on the run to tie the scores at 18-all.

But that was as good as it got for the hosts as Souths ran away with the match with Manly were forced to defend their goal line for the majority of the second half – missing 22 tackles in the process.

Manly were without props Martin Taupau and Addin Fonua-Blake, who were each suspended following last week’s loss to Parramatta.

Forward Lloyd Perrett was also out after fracturing his eye-socket last week, while in further bad news for the club Darcy Lussick’s comeback from a wrist injury has now been postponed until round five.

But captain Cherry-Evans refused to blame the fade away on the absence of the key players in the middle.

“We had 17 players that could have won that game today,” Cherry-Evans said.

“As understrength as we were, that’s not an excuse. We should have won today.”

Trbojevic’s running haul marked the 17th time he has topped 150 metres in his 33-game NRL career, but Saturday’s 267 metres was by far his biggest.

It’s why he’s been hailed as a future NSW State of Origin star in the making.

But for now he’s proved he’s more than ready to fill the shoes of the injury-retired Brett Stewart at the back for Manly.

Tycoon gave France’s Fillon undeclared 50,000 euro loan: report

The conservative candidate “did not deem it necessary” to report the 50,000 euros ($53,000) loan he received from Marc Ladreit de Lacharriere in 2013 to a state transparency watchdog, the Canard Enchaine weekly said in its edition to appear Wednesday.

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“The ‘oversight’ may be costly for the presidential candidate,” said the investigative and satirical newspaper, which also made the allegations in January about the fake jobs scandal that has threatened to derail Fillon’s candidacy.

Le Canard Enchaine reported that Fillon’s lawyer Antonin Levy had confirmed the loan had been repaid in full, but did not say when.

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Once the frontrunner to become France’s next president in May, 63-year-old Fillon has had to battle to stay in the race because of the revelations that he had paid his wife Penelope hundreds of thousands of euros from public funds, allegedly for fake jobs.

The former prime minister is to be charged later this month.

Ladreit de Lacharriere is the CEO of Fimalac, a financial services holding company, and owns the literary magazine La Revue des Deux Mondes.

The publication paid Penelope Fillon some 100,000 euros in 2012-13 but there is little evidence of her work. 

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Investigators are looking into a possible link between this job and the bestowal of France’s highest civilian honour, the Grand Croix of the Legion of Honour, on Ladreit de Lacharriere in 2011 when Fillon was prime minister.

The Canard Enchaine also said investigators were looking into a consultancy firm called 2F Conseil that Fillon set up in 2012 after he left office as prime minister, which the paper says has paid him hundreds of thousands of euros.

Fillon has denied any wrongdoing with his consultancy work.

Related readingParty’s ‘unanimous’ support 

With just seven weeks to go before France goes to the polls in the April 23 first round of a two-stage vote, Fillon has remained as the rightwing candidate despite calls for him to allow rival Alain Juppe to stand in his place because of the scandal.

On Monday, he won the “unanimous” backing of his Republicans party after Juppe, 71, adamantly rejected the calls while lamenting the state of Fillon’s candidacy, calling it a “waste”.

Juppe also chastised Fillon for the disdain he has shown the justice system and his swipes at the media.

Fillon, campaigning as a sleaze-free candidate, was the surprise winner of the rightwing primary in November, besting Juppe who was convicted in 2004 over a party finance scandal.

The infighting among Republicans and Fillon’s chaotic campaign have made an already unpredictable election even harder to call. 

Centrist candidate Emmanuel Macron, 39, has gone from strength to strength, with the latest poll putting him neck-and-neck with far-right leader Marine Le Pen with 25.5 percent to 26.5 percent for her.

Fillon is lagging behind in third place with 18.5 percent, according to the Ifop-Fiducial poll out Tuesday.

Republican backlash over Trump-backed health care bill

Several far-right lawmakers said the Republican plan abandons conservative fiscal principles by maintaining government subsidies of the Affordable Care Act, but under the guise of “refundable tax credits” for people to purchase their own health insurance.

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“This is Obamacare Lite, it will not pass,” fumed Senator Rand Paul on Fox News.

Later, he told reporters that Republicans were “united on repeal, but divided on replacement.”

Other Republicans described the bill — the result of seven years of effort — as a missed opportunity, even a step in the wrong direction.

“We don’t know how much it will cost, and we don’t know if this bill will make health care more affordable for Americans,” said Senator Mike Lee, who opposes the use of tax credits.

With rebellion brewing, Trump hosted more than 20 House Republicans at the White House, where he said he is “proud” to back the plan and anticipated Congress would vote to repeal Obamacare “quickly.”

“They want Obamacare over,” he said of Americans who voted Trump into office. “So let’s get it done.”

The legislation gets its first official review in Congress Wednesday, when two House committees debate and possibly amend the bill.

Republicans control the White House and both chambers of Congress. 

If enough Republicans defect, particularly in the Senate, where they hold a narrow 52-48 majority, the highly anticipated repeal-and-replace plan could collapse.

House Speaker Paul Ryan, who has shepherded the bill through several drafts, sought to downplay divisions within his party.

“We will have 218 when this thing comes to the floor, I can guarantee you that,” Ryan said, referring to the majority votes needed to pass legislation in the 435-member chamber.

‘Ryancare’ 

Pressure from outside Congress swelled quickly Tuesday, with several conservative groups opposing the plan.

The pro-free-market Club for Growth labeled it “Ryancare,” after the speaker, and said it was a “warmed-over substitute for government-run health care.”

Meanwhile, Vice President Mike Pence was dispatched to the US Capitol to huddle with Senate Republicans in a show of support for the legislation that was crafted by House Republican leadership.

Pence said afterwards that the bill remained “open to improvement” through the legislative process.

That debate is proceeding apace “and will continue to be vigorous,” said Senator Ted Cruz, who said he had “a number of concerns” with the House legislation.

“We can not do nothing at all,” Cruz said. “Failure is not an option.”

The bill has come in for criticism from more moderate factions too, including four Republican senators whose states expanded the low-income Medicaid program through Obamacare.

Those states’ Republican governors are concerned that the planned phaseout of the expansion under the new bill would leave thousands of residents without coverage.

Reforms implemented under then-president Barack Obama are credited with helping 20 million Americans gain coverage, but have been criticized for rising premiums and other costs.

Democrats have savaged the bill as an immoral shift of costs from the wealthy to poor and working-class Americans.

Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price explained that “it’s the beginning of the process” and that extensive negotiations were ahead.

The goal, top Republicans said, is swift debate and adoption of the Obamacare substitute prior to the Easter break that begins April 8.

www inventor urges fake news crackdown

World Wide Web inventor Sir Tim Berners-Lee says the impact of fake news is increasingly concerning and has unveiled plans to tackle “unethical” political advertising and the harvesting of data.

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The British computer scientist said on Sunday, exactly 28 years after his invention, the three new trends have become alarming in the last 12 months.

In an open letter published in the UK, Sir Tim, 61, said misuse of data has created a “chilling effect on free speech” and warned of “internet blind spots” that are corrupting democracy.

One problem, he wrote, is that most people find their news and information through a “handful” of social media sites and search engines, which are paid whenever someone clicks a link.

“The net result is that these sites show us content they think we’ll click on, meaning that misinformation or fake news, which is surprising, shocking or designed to appeal to our biases, can spread like wildfire,” he added.

“And through the use of data science and armies of bots, those with bad intentions can game the system to spread misinformation for financial or political gain.”

Companies and governments are using widespread data collection to “trample on our rights”, leading to bloggers being arrested and killed by repressive regimes, Sir Tim said.

“But even in countries where we believe governments have citizens’ best interests at heart, watching everyone all the time is simply going too far,” he wrote.

“It creates a chilling effect on free speech and stops the web from being used as a space to explore important topics, such as sensitive health issues, sexuality or religion.”

Sir Tim also criticised politicians for targeting voters using sophisticated algorithms to tailor messages to ones they will approve of.

“Targeted advertising allows a campaign to say completely different, possibly conflicting things to different groups. Is that democratic?” he said.

Oxford-educated Sir Tim, who submitted his original proposal for the web on March 12 1989, urged people to call for greater protection laws and that Google and Facebook increase their efforts to tackle fake news.

The “internet blind spot” in political campaigning must be closed while alternative revenue streams must be explored so data is not sold so indiscriminately, he said.

He plans for the Web Foundation, which he founded in 2009, to work on the issues in a five-year strategy.