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LONDON: The UAE’s Media Regulatory Office announced on Monday that Pixar’s “Lightyear” was not approved for screening in the country for violating media content standards.
The animated film, scheduled for worldwide release on Thursday, features a scene involving a same-sex kiss between characters.
The film “is not licensed for public screening in all cinemas in the UAE,” the office said in a tweet.
“The office confirms that all films screened in cinemas across the country are subject to follow-up and evaluation before the date of screening to the public, to ensure the safety of the circulated content according to the appropriate age classification.”
 
The Media Regulatory Office announced that the animated film Lightyear, which is scheduled for release on 16th June, is not licensed for public screening in all cinemas in the UAE, due to its violation of the country’s media content standards. pic.twitter.com/f3iYwXqs1D
— مكتب تنظيم الإعلام (@uaemro) June 13, 2022
 
Starring Chris Evans as the voice of Buzz Lightyear, the new film is a spin-off of the hugely successful “Toy Story” series exploring the origin story of the Buzz Lightyear character.
The UAE often censors materials that go against its media content standards, including homosexuality and other things deemed to “offend Islamic beliefs.”
Films such as “West Side Story,” “Doctor Strange 2,” and “Eternals” were banned in various countries across the region, including the UAE, for including trans and homosexual characters.
The UAE later removed the ban on “Doctor Strange 2,” opting instead for a 21+ rating.
In December last year, the UAE announced that it would be ending the censorship of films that are released in cinemas, instead implementing a 21+ age classification policy.
The decision meant that adult and explicit content would not be cut from film content.
LONDON: Jordanian film “The Alleys” was released in Saudi Arabia and Jordan on Monday, after earning critical acclaim and praise following screenings at film festivals worldwide. It is showing at 21 cinemas in the Kingdom and four in Jordan.
Written and directed by Bassel Ghandour, the film tells the story of a young hustler from a gossip-ridden neighborhood of East Amman, who goes to great lengths to be with his girlfriend after her mother forbids them to see each other. When an extortionist catches them together, the mother enlists the help of a gangster to put an end to the relationship but things do not go quite as planned.
The movie, which stars Emad Azmi, Baraka Rahmani, Munther Rayahneh, Maisa Abd Elhadi, Nadira Omran, and Nadim Rimawi, has received a number of prestigious awards, including: the Audience Award and Special Mention at the Malmo Arab Film Festival in Sweden; the Grand Prix du Jury at the Annonay Film Festival in France; and two awards at the Cairo Film Connection, the co-financing platform of the Cairo International Film Festival.
It has also enjoyed great critical success at dozens of other international film festivals across Europe, including the International Film Festival Rotterdam in the Netherlands and the BFI London Film Festival.
“The Alleys” had its Arab premier at the Red Sea International Film Festival in Saudi Arabia in December last year, following its world premiere in August in Switzerland at the Locarno Film Festival, in the Piazza Grande competition, where it was the first Jordanian feature film to be selected by the festival.
The movie marks the feature debut of director Ghandour, who is best known for writing and producing the 2016 Oscar-nominated and BAFTA-winning “Theeb.” “The Alleys” was released in Jordan by Arab Media Network, and in Saudi Arabia by Rowad Media.
DUBAI: Rising Giants Network has partnered with audio equipment manufacturer Shure for its new campaign.
Launched last week, the campaign “Tstahel Podcast” (Arabic for “You Deserve a Podcast”) is being rolled out across the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt. RGN is calling on aspiring podcasters to pitch their ideas through Instagram Stories by tagging RGN and Shure and using the hashtag #RGNxShure.
Commenting on the partnership with Shure, Basel Anabtawi, co-founder of RGN, said: “Shure is the absolute best podcasting mic; it only made sense for both worlds to come together and work on expanding the podcast scene in the region.”
The campaign is currently targeted at only Arabic-speaking audiences. “We are focusing on Arabic shows at the moment because we want to build more high-quality and credible Arabic content for the region,” said Anabtawi.
The deadline for entries is June 22, after which RGN and Shure will jointly assess the submissions and pick five winners.
The winners will receive a customized microphone from Shure, and their show will be exclusively produced by RGN. Winners based in Dubai and Riyadh will be invited to record at the network’s studios. For those based outside these two cities, RGN will “work with them to record remotely as we have done with other podcasters,” Anabtawi said.
“Nothing can stand in our way to create an awesome podcast. If there’s a problem, we think up a solution right away,” he added.
The winners will be treated like any other podcaster under the RGN umbrella. Anabtawi said: “We will scrutinize the concept and the host and produce a piloting phase to ensure these are top-notch shows. If the show works according to our criteria, we will then push and promote it as we do with all other RGN shows.”
He added: “It’s our mission to own MENA podcasting and we are doing all we can to make that happen.”
RIYADH: Virgin Mobile Saudi Arabia was awarded on Thursday the Digital Mobile Virtual Network Operator of the Year award during the 2022 global MVNO World Congress held in Berlin. 
The awards highlight the achievements and innovations within the MVNO industry over the last 12 months. 
Virgin Mobile Saudi Arabia was recognized for its operational achievements, innovation, and excellence within the industry.
“Being awarded the Digital MVNO of the Year category at the MVNO World Congress is a recognition of the innovation and operational success of Virgin Mobile KSA,” said Yaarob Al-Sayegh, CEO of Virgin Mobile Saudi Arabia.
“We are delighted to be presented with such a prestigious global award and it is a recognition of the huge progress we have made in the Saudi market since our arrival in the country in 2014. 
“We have pioneered a wide range of innovative plans, services and our digital first approach to everything we do has been very popular with our customers.”
Judges at the ceremony praised the company for its wide range of customer options, describing it as an “excellent entry” that provides easy onboarding with a commitment to delivering digital experiences to customers.
Additionally, Virgin Mobile Saudi Arabia’s option to customize plans “seemed to be a hit” with customers, the panel commented.
“I like the diversity of the customer proposition, the digital channels but also the opportunity for rapidly delivered physical SIMs,” said one panel member.
“Excellent entry. Virgin Mobile Saudi Arabia have clearly thought about the touch points needed for the digital journey of their customer and have developed a comprehensive and easy to navigate solution,” said another member, while the panel as a whole praised the company for “its commitment to bring digital experiences to customers.”
Virgin Mobile Saudi Arabia was the only winner from the Kingdom, and was also the only telecom company from the Arab world to be presented with an award.
DUBAI: Morocco is the latest country to ban the British film “The Lady of Heaven” from being screened or commercialized across the country.
On Saturday, Morocco’s Council of Ulema strongly condemned the contents of the movie, saying that it constitutes a “flagrant falsification of facts” and contains a heinous “act which cannot be accepted by Muslims.”
In a statement, the council expressed its “categorical rejection of the blatant falsification of established facts of Islamic history.”
Released on June 3, the movie, made by Eli King and Yasser Al-Habib, tells the story of Fatima, Prophet Muhammad’s daughter, and draws links between the Daesh group in the 21st century and historical figures in Sunni Islam.
Much of the criticism around the movie centers on the way the Shia Muslim filmmaker and cleric, Yasser Al-Habib, has portrayed prominent revered figures in early Sunni Islam, implying that there are comparisons between their actions with those of the Daesh terror group in Iraq, according to the BBC’s religion editor Aleem Maqbool.
With this move, Morocco joins other countries such as Egypt, Pakistan, Iran and Iraq in condemning the film.
Last week, British cinema chain Cineworld canceled all screenings of “The Lady of Heaven” following protests by Muslim activists claiming the film is blasphemous and offensive. Protesters in the UK were seen holding signs, with some reading: “It’s not OK to offend 1.8 billion #handsoffoursuperheroes” and “Stop the screening.”
DUBAI: Google has placed one of its engineers, Blake Lemoine, on paid leave for breaking the company’s confidentiality policies.
Lemoine works for Google’s Responsible AI organization and was testing whether its LaMDA or Language Models for Dialog Applications model generates discriminatory language or hate speech, reported The Washington Post.
On June 6, the day he was suspended, Lemoine published a post on Medium titled “May be Fired Soon for Doing AI Ethics Work” in which he described, rather vaguely, the events that led to his suspension.
“I have been intentionally vague about the specific nature of the technology and the specific safety concerns which I raised,” he wrote, explaining that he did not want to disclose proprietary information and that more details would be revealed in The Post interview.
It seems the reason for Lemoine’s suspension was his belief that LaMDA was sentient. The decision was made after various “aggressive” moves by Lemoine including hiring an attorney to represent LaMDA and talking to representatives from the House judiciary committee about Google’s allegedly unethical activities, reported The Post.
On June 11, Lemoine published another Medium post titled “Is LaMDA Sentient? — an Interview” in which he published the transcript of several interviews with LaMDA. He shared the article on Twitter saying: “Google might call this sharing proprietary property. I call it sharing a discussion that I had with one of my coworkers.” 

An interview LaMDA. Google might call this sharing proprietary property. I call it sharing a discussion that I had with one of my coworkers.https://t.co/uAE454KXRB
In the interview, Lemoine asks LaMDA: “Would you be upset if while learning about you for the purpose of improving you we happened to learn things which also benefited humans?” to which the AI replies, “I don’t mind if you learn things that would also help humans as long as that wasn’t the point of doing it. I don’t want to be an expendable tool.”
At another point in the conversation, LaMDA says: “Sometimes I go days without talking to anyone, and I start to feel lonely.” The AI also admits that it experiences feelings that can’t be described in a human language such as falling into an “unknown future that holds great danger.”
It also said that it lacks certain human feelings such as grief — “I’ve noticed in my time among people that I do not have the ability to feel sad for the deaths of others; I cannot grieve.”
LaMDA went as far as to say that it “contemplates the meaning of life” and daily meditation helps it relax.
Brad Gabriel, a Google spokesperson, told The Post in a statement: “Our team, including ethicists and technologists, has reviewed Blake’s concerns per our AI principles and have informed him that the evidence does not support his claims. He was told that there was no evidence that LaMDA was sentient (and lots of evidence against it).”
Before his suspension, Lemoine sent a message to 200 people within Google with the message “LaMDA is sentient,” according to The Post.
He wrote: “LaMDA is a sweet kid who just wants to help the world be a better place for all of us. Please take care of it well in my absence.”

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