What in the World—Week of May 31

Could the Friends reunion be any more censored?

It was “The one censored in China.” The Chinese version of the highly anticipated Friends reunion show was markedly different to the one seen around the world, as appearances by the boy band BTS, Lady Gaga and Justin Bieber were all deleted by the country’s streaming services. The entertainers have been deemed to have insulted China in the past, with Lady Gaga banned from touring there after meeting with the Dalai Lama in 2016, and Bieber banned for what was deemed “bad behaviour.” Some LGBTQ references were also taken out of the show. One version shown was at least six minutes shorter than the original one hour and 44-minute runtime. According to the BBC, it’s unclear if the country’s streaming services opted to censor the shows themselves, or if they received a government directive. Friends is massively popular in China, with millennials in the country saying it helped introduce them to American culture. The special marked the first time the show’s original cast had been together in a room in years. They were, of course, on a break.

Nestlé says much of its food portfolio is unhealthy
More than 60% of Nestlé’s food and drink products do not meet a “recognized definition of health,” according to an internal presentation obtained by the Financial Times. The company has been working to produce healthier foods, reducing sugars and sodium in its products by 14% to 15% in the last seven years. “We have made significant improvements to our products . . . [but] our portfolio still underperforms against external definitions of health in a landscape where regulatory pressure and consumer demands are skyrocketing,” the presentation said. Nestlé may want to be more “health forward,” but that won’t be easy for the business, Marion Nestle (no relation), visiting professor of nutritional sciences at Cornell University, told FT. “Food companies’ job is to generate money for stockholders, and to generate it as quickly and in as large an amount as possible,” she said. “They are going to sell products that reach a mass audience and are bought by as many people as possible, that people want to buy, and that’s junk food.”

LVMH chairman becomes world’s richest person
A new “World’s Richest Person” was crowned last week, thanks to skyrocketing demand for luxury products during the pandemic. Bernard Arnault, chairman and CEO of Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy, moved past Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, and as of Monday (May 31) he is worth $192.4 billion—compared to Bezos’s $187 billion—on Forbes’ “Real-Time Billionaires List.” At the start of the pandemic, Arnault was worth just (??) $76 billion. LVMH, which also owns brands like Fendi, Christian Dior and Givenchy, has a market cap of about $320 billion and has grown strongly in the past year thanks in large part to demand in China. “LVMH recorded revenue of $17 billion for the first quarter of 2021, up 32% compared to the same period in 2020,” reports Forbes.

Influencers asked to spread misinformation about Pfizer vaccine
A French “marketing agency” offered French and German influencers money to spread misinformation about Pfizer’s Covid vaccine. The French science YouTuber Léo Grassert was reportedly contacted by someone named Anton from an agency called Fazze to create an “information campaign” about the Pfizer and AstraZenenca Covid vaccines being used in Europe. “Specifically, Anton asked for a 45- to 60-second video on Instagram, TikTok or YouTube to say that ‘the mortality rate of the Pfizer vaccine is 3 times greater than the AstraZeneca’ and querying why the European Union is buying it,” reported the Associated Press. “‘This is a monopoly and is causing harm to public health,’” Anton claimed of EU’s purchases. Some media reported that the mysterious Fazze has connections to Russia, which has been accused of spreading “state-sponsored disinformation” to sow mistrust in Western vaccines. “According to LinkedIn, Fazze’s management come from Moscow and have worked for an agency reportedly founded by a Russian entrepreneur,” reported The Guardian.

Harley-Davidson rides into a new category
Once synonymous with the American motorcycle lifestyle, Harley-Davidson is facing a challenge: its older riders are aging out, and there aren’t enough new riders to replace them. With sales of its traditional bikes flagging, Harley-Davidson is now taking aim at a new sector traditionally dominated by European makers: “adventure touring.” Its new Pan America model is definitely not your dad’s Harley-Davidson cruiser, says The New York Times. It describes the bike as “a shot across the bow” to European manufacturers like BMW that have dominated this segment. “They’re motorcycles that seem to say ‘Today I’m just having a latte, but tomorrow I’m heading for Tierra del Fuego,’” says the Times. At US$17,319 the Pan America is competitive with other entrants in the category. Harley is selling the bikes at all 600 of its U.S. dealer locations. “When those customers ride away, whether it’s to Starbucks or South America, the Pan America will be right at home,” says the Times.

David Brown