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The Movie Disney And China Don’t Want You To See

The Movie Disney And China Don’t Want You To See

Authored by Jonathan Miltmore via The Epoch Times (emphasis ours),

Few directors in Hollywood…

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The Movie Disney And China Don’t Want You To See

Authored by Jonathan Miltmore via The Epoch Times (emphasis ours),

Few directors in Hollywood have more power than Martin Scorsese, the Oscar-winning director of box office hits such as "Goodfellas," "Casino," "The Departed," and "The Wolf of Wall Street."

(L-R) Actor Richard Gere, director Martin Scorsese, the Dalai Lama, and producer and screenwriter Melissa Mathison hold hands at the end of a brief meeting with reporters prior to a speech by the Dalai Lama at an awards ceremony in New York on April 30, 1998. The ceremony honored Mr. Scorsese and Ms. Mathison for their work on the film 'Kundun.' (Matt Campbell/AFP via Getty Images)

But even the legendary filmmaker lacked the clout to save the fate of his movie "Kundun" (1997) when the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) came knocking on Disney’s door.

The film is probably one that most readers have never heard of, even though it was nominated for four Academy Awards and included the legendary Mr. Scorsese. A historical drama written by Melissa Mathison, "Kundun" explores the life of the young Dalai Lama, who in 1950 saw his homeland of Tibet invaded by the CCP.

Ms. Mathison conceived the project after meeting the Dalai Lama in 1990, and although she had concerns that Hollywood wouldn't be interested in such a film, she caught a break when she convinced Mr. Scorsese to direct the film.

“I’m not saying he wants to do it, but I know he’s going to get it,” Ms. Mathison recalled thinking. “I knew he’d understand the society, the moral code, the journey, and the spirituality of it,” she said in the documentary "In Search of Kundun with Martin Scorsese."

Disney eventually agreed to distribute the film, which was given a $28 million budget. But China had other ideas.

Tibet, along with Taiwan and Tiananmen, is among the forbidden Three Ts—the issues considered most contentious by the CCP. So with China becoming an emerging global power in the 1990s, the CCP decided to flex its muscle and attempted to nix the project.

Two days into the production of "Kundun" in 1996, a representative from the Chinese Embassy approached Disney's chief strategic officer, Lawrence Murphy.

“You started shooting a film in Morocco about the Dalai Lama called 'Kundun,'” the diplomat said before explaining that Beijing had concerns with the film’s subject matter.

'Play by China’s Rules' ... or Else

At the time, Mr. Murphy hadn’t even heard of the film. But it would soon become clear that the CCP wanted the shooting of "Kundun" shut down. Why Beijing would want the movie censored is obvious. "Kundun" describes atrocities that China’s communist regime committed in the 1950s following its invasion of the Himalayan country.

The Chinese have bombed the monastery of Lithang. It has been destroyed,” an adviser tells the Dalai Lama at one point in the movie. “Nuns and monks are made to fornicate in the streets. They put guns in the hands of Khumba children and force the child to kill the parents.”

While the description is horrifying, even more moving is the scene in which an elderly Tibetan woman tearfully and frantically insists that she's “happy and prosperous under the Chinese Communist Party.”

This isn't exactly flattering stuff for the CCP, any more than "Schindler’s List" is for the Nazis. Yet history isn't always pretty.

In any event, the CCP’s decision to lean on the film left Disney CEO Michael Eisner in a pickle.

If Mr. Eisner shut down the film, he’d anger Mr. Scorsese and look weak for caving to the CCP. If he proceeded with production, he risked losing Disney’s commercial and manufacturing foothold in China, as well as the 1.4 billion potential consumers.

So Mr. Eisner opted for a third way. He allowed the shooting of "Kundun" to proceed, but he limited the film’s distribution and marketing. "Kundun" was released on Christmas Day in 1997—in two theaters nationwide.

In other words, in the contest over truth and creative freedom versus government censorship, Disney blinked, and film producer Matt Tabor describes what Disney’s decision meant going forward.

“If foreign companies wanted access to [China’s] market, they were going to play by China’s rules,” Mr. Tabor noted in a recent production by the Foundation for Economic Education on the showdown. “'Kundun' marked the first opportunity for China to flex that muscle in the movie business.”

It was a watershed moment. And if there was any doubt that Disney caved to China, which officially considered the film “an interference in China’s internal affairs,” one need only read the groveling message that Disney sent to China after the dust had settled a year later.

The Apology: ‘We Made a Stupid Mistake’

Despite “sending 'Kundun' quietly to the gulag,” Disney found itself kicked out of China’s burgeoning market, along with other U.S. film studios.

“These films are full of inaccuracies,” a Chinese official told The Washington Post. “That’s why they are not popular within China.”

“We made a stupid mistake in releasing 'Kundun.' This film was a form of insult to our friends. The bad news is that the film was made; the good news is that nobody watched it. Here I want to apologize, and in the future, we should prevent this sort of thing, which insults our friends, from happening. In short, we’re a family entertainment company, a company that uses silly ways to amuse people.”

Mr. Eisner’s complete capitulation would have a profound impact on the global entertainment landscape for years to come. It explains why "Kundun" can’t be streamed on Amazon or Netflix even today. It explains why NBA executives go apoplectic when a single general manager tweets his support of protesters in Hong Kong.

One can appreciate the tough situation that Mr. Eisner was in without agreeing with his decision to banish "Kundun" to Siberia. Companies have commercial interests, and balancing those against doing the right thing or supporting creative expression isn't always easy. Indeed, this balancing act existed before Disney banished "Kundun," evidenced by one executive’s stated reason for passing on the film.

“I don’t need to have my spirits and wine business thrown out of China,” Edgar Bronfman Jr.—the CEO of Seagram, which briefly owned Universal Pictures—replied when pitched on "Kundun."

Yet, the message of Disney’s showdown with China isn’t really about the ethics of dealing with a powerful communist regime. The real lesson is that we should prevent governments from amassing such dictatorial power in the first place, and remind ourselves that governments are hardly arbiters of truth. Indeed, if the past few years have taught us anything, it’s that government officials have no business deciding what's true and what's false—even though it’s a power they clearly desire.

The reality is that those who wish to censor speech are usually far more interested in power than truth—the CCP’s attempt to censor "Kundun" reinforces that idea—and reminds us that sometimes the best way to exercise freedom is to watch a movie they don’t want you to see.

Matt Tabor contributed to this article.

Views expressed in this article are opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

Tyler Durden Fri, 10/13/2023 - 21:40

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Four burning questions about the future of the $16.5B Novo-Catalent deal

To build or to buy? That’s a classic question for pharma boardrooms, and Novo Nordisk is going with both.
Beyond spending billions of dollars to expand…

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To build or to buy? That’s a classic question for pharma boardrooms, and Novo Nordisk is going with both.

Beyond spending billions of dollars to expand its own production capacity for its weight loss drugs, the Danish drugmaker said Monday it will pay $11 billion to acquire three manufacturing plants from Catalent. It’s part of a broader $16.5 billion deal with Novo Holdings, the investment arm of the pharma’s parent group, which agreed to acquire the contract manufacturer and take it private.

It’s a big deal for all parties, with potential ripple effects across the biotech ecosystem. Here’s a look at some of the most pressing questions to watch after Monday’s announcement.

Why did Novo do this?

Novo Holdings isn’t the most obvious buyer for Catalent, particularly after last year’s on-and-off M&A interest from the serial acquirer Danaher. But the deal could benefit both Novo Holdings and Novo Nordisk.

Novo Nordisk’s biggest challenge has been simply making enough of the weight loss drug Wegovy and diabetes therapy Ozempic. On last week’s earnings call, Novo Nordisk CEO Lars Fruergaard Jørgensen said the company isn’t constrained by capital in its efforts to boost manufacturing. Rather, the main challenge is the limited amount of capabilities out there, he said.

“Most pharmaceutical companies in the world would be shopping among the same manufacturers,” he said. “There’s not an unlimited amount of machinery and people to build it.”

While Novo was already one of Catalent’s major customers, the manufacturer has been hamstrung by its own balance sheet. With roughly $5 billion in debt on its books, it’s had to juggle paying down debt with sufficiently investing in its facilities. That’s been particularly challenging in keeping pace with soaring demand for GLP-1 drugs.

Novo, on the other hand, has the balance sheet to funnel as much money as needed into the plants in Italy, Belgium, and Indiana. It’s also struggled to make enough of its popular GLP-1 drugs to meet their soaring demand, with documented shortages of both Ozempic and Wegovy.

The impact won’t be immediate. The parties expect the deal to close near the end of 2024. Novo Nordisk said it expects the three new sites to “gradually increase Novo Nordisk’s filling capacity from 2026 and onwards.”

As for the rest of Catalent — nearly 50 other sites employing thousands of workers — Novo Holdings will take control. The group previously acquired Altasciences in 2021 and Ritedose in 2022, so the Catalent deal builds on a core investing interest in biopharma services, Novo Holdings CEO Kasim Kutay told Endpoints News.

Kasim Kutay

When asked about possible site closures or layoffs, Kutay said the team hasn’t thought about that.

“That’s not our track record. Our track record is to invest in quality businesses and help them grow,” he said. “There’s always stuff to do with any asset you own, but we haven’t bought this company to do some of the stuff you’re talking about.”

What does it mean for Catalent’s customers? 

Until the deal closes, Catalent will operate as a standalone business. After it closes, Novo Nordisk said it will honor its customer obligations at the three sites, a spokesperson said. But they didn’t answer a question about what happens when those contracts expire.

The wrinkle is the long-term future of the three plants that Novo Nordisk is paying for. Those sites don’t exclusively pump out Wegovy, but that could be the logical long-term aim for the Danish drugmaker.

The ideal scenario is that pricing and timelines remain the same for customers, said Nicole Paulk, CEO of the gene therapy startup Siren Biotechnology.

Nicole Paulk

“The name of the group that you’re going to send your check to is now going to be Novo Holdings instead of Catalent, but otherwise everything remains the same,” Paulk told Endpoints. “That’s the best-case scenario.”

In a worst case, Paulk said she feared the new owners could wind up closing sites or laying off Catalent groups. That could create some uncertainty for customers looking for a long-term manufacturing partner.

Are shareholders and regulators happy? 

The pandemic was a wild ride for Catalent’s stock, with shares surging from about $40 to $140 and then crashing back to earth. The $63.50 share price for the takeover is a happy ending depending on the investor.

On that point, the investing giant Elliott Investment Management is satisfied. Marc Steinberg, a partner at Elliott, called the agreement “an outstanding outcome” that “clearly maximizes value for Catalent stockholders” in a statement.

Elliott helped kick off a strategic review last August that culminated in the sale agreement. Compared to Catalent’s stock price before that review started, the deal pays a nearly 40% premium.

Alessandro Maselli

But this is hardly a victory lap for CEO Alessandro Maselli, who took over in July 2022 when Catalent’s stock price was north of $100. Novo’s takeover is a tacit acknowledgment that Maselli could never fully right the ship, as operational problems plagued the company throughout 2023 while it was limited by its debt.

Additional regulatory filings in the next few weeks could give insight into just how competitive the sale process was. William Blair analysts said they don’t expect a competing bidder “given the organic investments already being pursued at other leading CDMOs and the breadth and scale of Catalent’s operations.”

The Blair analysts also noted the companies likely “expect to spend some time educating relevant government agencies” about the deal, given the lengthy closing timeline. Given Novo Nordisk’s ascent — it’s now one of Europe’s most valuable companies — paired with the limited number of large contract manufacturers, antitrust regulators could be interested in taking a close look.

Are Catalent’s problems finally a thing of the past?

Catalent ran into a mix of financial and operational problems over the past year that played no small part in attracting the interest of an activist like Elliott.

Now with a deal in place, how quickly can Novo rectify those problems? Some of the challenges were driven by the demands of being a publicly traded company, like failing to meet investors’ revenue expectations or even filing earnings reports on time.

But Catalent also struggled with its business at times, with a range of manufacturing delays, inspection reports and occasionally writing down acquisitions that didn’t pan out. Novo’s deep pockets will go a long way to a turnaround, but only the future will tell if all these issues are fixed.

Kutay said his team is excited by the opportunity and was satisfied with the due diligence it did on the company.

“We believe we’re buying a strong company with a good management team and good prospects,” Kutay said. “If that wasn’t the case, I don’t think we’d be here.”

Amber Tong and Reynald Castañeda contributed reporting.

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Petrina Kamya, Ph.D., Head of AI Platforms at Insilico Medicine, presents at BIO CEO & Investor Conference

Petrina Kamya, PhD, Head of AI Platforms and President of Insilico Medicine Canada, will present at the BIO CEO & Investor Conference happening Feb….

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Petrina Kamya, PhD, Head of AI Platforms and President of Insilico Medicine Canada, will present at the BIO CEO & Investor Conference happening Feb. 26-27 at the New York Marriott Marquis in New York City. Dr. Kamya will speak as part of the panel “AI within Biopharma: Separating Value from Hype,” on Feb. 27, 1pm ET along with Michael Nally, CEO of Generate: Biomedicines and Liz Schwarzbach, PhD, CBO of BigHat Biosciences.

Credit: Insilico Medicine

Petrina Kamya, PhD, Head of AI Platforms and President of Insilico Medicine Canada, will present at the BIO CEO & Investor Conference happening Feb. 26-27 at the New York Marriott Marquis in New York City. Dr. Kamya will speak as part of the panel “AI within Biopharma: Separating Value from Hype,” on Feb. 27, 1pm ET along with Michael Nally, CEO of Generate: Biomedicines and Liz Schwarzbach, PhD, CBO of BigHat Biosciences.

The session will look at how the latest artificial intelligence (AI) tools – including generative AI and large language models – are currently being used to advance the discovery and design of new drugs, and which technologies are still in development. 

The BIO CEO & Investor Conference brings together over 1,000 attendees and more than 700 companies across industry and institutional investment to discuss the future investment landscape of biotechnology. Sessions focus on topics such as therapeutic advancements, market outlook, and policy priorities.

Insilico Medicine is a leading, clinical stage AI-driven drug discovery company that has raised over $400m in investments since it was founded in 2014. Dr. Kamya leads the development of the Company’s end-to-end generative AI platform, Pharma.AI from Insilico’s AI R&D Center in Montreal. Using modern machine learning techniques in the context of chemistry and biology, the platform has driven the discovery and design of 30+ new therapies, with five in clinical stages – for cancer, fibrosis, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), and COVID-19. The Company’s lead drug, for the chronic, rare lung condition idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, is the first AI-designed drug for an AI-discovered target to reach Phase II clinical trials with patients. Nine of the top 20 pharmaceutical companies have used Insilico’s AI platform to advance their programs, and the Company has a number of major strategic licensing deals around its AI-designed therapeutic assets, including with Sanofi, Exelixis and Menarini. 

 

About Insilico Medicine

Insilico Medicine, a global clinical stage biotechnology company powered by generative AI, is connecting biology, chemistry, and clinical trials analysis using next-generation AI systems. The company has developed AI platforms that utilize deep generative models, reinforcement learning, transformers, and other modern machine learning techniques for novel target discovery and the generation of novel molecular structures with desired properties. Insilico Medicine is developing breakthrough solutions to discover and develop innovative drugs for cancer, fibrosis, immunity, central nervous system diseases, infectious diseases, autoimmune diseases, and aging-related diseases. www.insilico.com 


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Another country is getting ready to launch a visa for digital nomads

Early reports are saying Japan will soon have a digital nomad visa for high-earning foreigners.

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Over the last decade, the explosion of remote work that came as a result of improved technology and the pandemic has allowed an increasing number of people to become digital nomads. 

When looked at more broadly as anyone not required to come into a fixed office but instead moves between different locations such as the home and the coffee shop, the latest estimate shows that there were more than 35 million such workers in the world by the end of 2023 while over half of those come from the United States.

Related: There is a new list of cities that are best for digital nomads

While remote work has also allowed many to move to cheaper places and travel around the world while still bringing in income, working outside of one's home country requires either dual citizenship or work authorization — the global shift toward remote work has pushed many countries to launch specific digital nomad visas to boost their economies and bring in new residents.

Japan is a very popular destination for U.S. tourists. 

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This popular vacation destination will soon have a nomad visa

Spain, Portugal, Indonesia, Malaysia, Costa Rica, Brazil, Latvia and Malta are some of the countries currently offering specific visas for foreigners who want to live there while bringing in income from abroad.

More Travel:

With the exception of a few, Asian countries generally have stricter immigration laws and were much slower to launch these types of visas that some of the countries with weaker economies had as far back as 2015. As first reported by the Japan Times, the country's Immigration Services Agency ended up making the leap toward a visa for those who can earn more than ¥10 million ($68,300 USD) with income from another country.

The Japanese government has not yet worked out the specifics of how long the visa will be valid for or how much it will cost — public comment on the proposal is being accepted throughout next week. 

That said, early reports say the visa will be shorter than the typical digital nomad option that allows foreigners to live in a country for several years. The visa will reportedly be valid for six months or slightly longer but still no more than a year — along with the ability to work, this allows some to stay beyond the 90-day tourist period typically afforded to those from countries with visa-free agreements.

'Not be given a residence card of residence certificate'

While one will be able to reapply for the visa after the time runs out, this can only be done by exiting the country and being away for six months before coming back again — becoming a permanent resident on the pathway to citizenship is an entirely different process with much more strict requirements.

"Those living in Japan with the digital nomad visa will not be given a residence card or a residence certificate, which provide access to certain government benefits," reports the news outlet. "The visa cannot be renewed and must be reapplied for, with this only possible six months after leaving the countr

The visa will reportedly start in March and also allow holders to bring their spouses and families with them. To start using the visa, holders will also need to purchase private health insurance from their home country while taxes on any money one earns will also need to be paid through one's home country.

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