From leaked US intelligence documents to Kim K's new spooky role – Here's your April 11 news briefing

In the last few weeks, some classified US docs were leaked online containing sensitive information about US allies.

From leaked US intelligence documents to Kim K's new spooky role – Here's your April 11 news briefing
An American flag waves outside the U.S. Department of Justice Building in Washington, U.S., December 15, 2020. REUTERS/Al Drago/File Photo

To start off, we're looking into:

Inside the Pentagon leak-gate

The backstory: In the last few weeks, some classified US docs were leaked online containing sensitive information about US allies, like Israel, and other topics, including military intel on Ukraine. And, as you can guess, there's been a huge fuss about it.

More recently: US officials said the docs contain intel on China, the Middle East, Africa and Ukraine. They confirmed that many of the documents appear to be authentic. But not everything is accurate. For example, some reports have been doctored to downplay Russian losses in battle. Officials are worried that this could damage US relationships with other countries, and some experts even suspect that an American might be responsible for the leak. Others believe that pro-Russian groups could be involved.

The development: Now, the US is scrambling to figure out who's responsible. A lot of tea was spilled in this leak, so click into the full article for all the deets.

OpenAI on chatbot ban

ChatGPT is facing a ban in Italy
OpenAI logo is seen in this illustration taken March 31, 2023. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration

The backstory: The language model from OpenAI, ChatGPT, has been making waves with its impressive abilities. Users love its knack for explaining complex topics in simple terms and even creating poetry. In fact, it's become the fastest-growing app in history, with millions of users already on board, according to a UBS study. But some are worried about the potential downsides of AI. Tech titans like Tesla CEO Elon Musk are calling for a pause on AI development, fearing it's getting out of hand.

More recently:  Two weeks ago, Italy became the first Western country to ban ChatGPT due to privacy violations and the absence of age restrictions. The Italian Data Protection Watchdog, Garante, was particularly concerned about how the chatbot could harm minors and vulnerable individuals. Plus, there were worries about the accuracy of its responses. The ban came after a data breach that exposed conversations between ChatGPT and its users. If OpenAI fails to address the issues within 20 days, the company could be subject to a fine of up to 20 million euros (US$21.68 million) or 4% of its annual global revenue.

The development: Now, OpenAI is addressing Italy's ban on ChatGPT and ensuring that user data is protected while advancing AI technology. In a recent video conference, CEO Sam Altman promised to be more transparent about user data and age verification. OpenAI will pitch ideas to Garante and wait for its evaluation. Other European privacy regulators are also checking if they should implement stronger measures for chatbots following Italy's ban.

Chinese bowl auctions for millions

Chinese ceramic bowl auctioned off in Hong Kong
An example of a Chinese famille rose ceramic painted bowl with nature theme. Source: Wikimedia Commons. 

The backstory: Chinese-crafted ceramics (often known as famille rose) from the 18th century are unique. These antique pieces often go for millions at auction. They can be classified under a few different terms depending on their style: fencai (pale colors), ruancai (soft colors), yangcai (foreign colors) and falangcai (enamel colors).

More recently: Back in 2021, a Chinese imperial yangcai phoenix vase was auctioned off in Beijing for over US$41 million, making it the most valuable piece of ceramic ever sold. In 2006, a really small falangcai bowl, only a little over 11 centimeters across, was in the auction market. Back then, collector Alice Cheng bought it for the then-record US$19.3 million.

The development: That same bowl collected by Cheng was just auctioned off in Hong Kong for over US$25 million on Saturday. Its nature-inspired design of birds and flowers also includes part of a poem believed to have been commissioned by Yongzheng's Ming dynasty predecessor, the Wanli Emperor. The bowl has the mark of the Qianlong emperor. It's really special because the porcelain was painted in the imperial workshops of the Forbidden City in Beijing, making it a super rare piece from the Qing dynasty. The bowl initially had a twin, but its brother is now on loan at the British Museum in London.

To end, we'll look into:

When will we have a cancer vaccine?

Scientists are looking into a cancer vaccine
Source: Pexels/

Cancer is such a far-reaching disease that has affected so many people in countless different ways. While modern technology and medicine have made it possible to treat different kinds of cancer, there is no cure, and it can still be deadly.

Don’t get us wrong, scientists have been working on a cancer vaccine for ages. The issue is that cancer isn’t a virus, and it’s hard to target cancer cells. So, vaccines that have been developed haven’t had a ton of luck against the disease.

“[Cancer] vaccines stimulate production of T cells primed to attack the target cancer, and there are many T cells in the bloodstream after vaccination. We found that only a few get to the tumor while many more are stuck at, or double back to, the vaccination site,” says Willem Overwijk, Ph.D., associate professor in MD Anderson’s Department of Melanoma Medical Oncology. The vaccine itself gets the attention of the immune cells, so not as many of those T cells end up focusing on attacking the tumor.

But the tides could be turning.

On Saturday, pharma company Moderna announced that vaccines for cancer, cardiovascular and autoimmune diseases and other conditions could be available by the end of the decade. It’s working on cancer vaccines to target different tumor types.

“We will have that vaccine and it will be highly effective, and it will save many hundreds of thousands, if not millions of lives. I think we will be able to offer personalized cancer vaccines against multiple different tumor types to people around the world,” says Dr. Paul Burton, the chief medical officer of Moderna.

A personalized cancer vaccine would follow certain steps. First, a biopsy of the patient’s tumor would be sent to a lab for DNA sequencing. Then, computers would figure out which mutations are causing the cancer’s growth. A piece of mRNA would then be created to get the body to make special antigens for the immune response. When the mRNA is in the body, it’ll act as protein pieces found in tumor cells. These mRNA-carrying cells will destroy cancer cells with these same proteins.

In other news ...

📉Stocks: MSCI’s global gauge of stocks is down 0.15% at 2786.20 at the time of writing.

  • Dow Jones added 0.30% to 33,586.52.
  • Nasdaq Composite lost 0.03% to 12,084.36.
  • S&P 500 rose 0.1% to 4,109.11.
  • Hang Seng Index was closed for the Easter holiday.

🧠Some quick factors to bear in mind:

  • US stocks had a mixed day. Tech stocks had it rough and dragged down the Nasdaq. Big techs like Apple and Alphabet slid about 2%, while Tesla announced it was cutting prices again, causing its shares to drop 0.3%. But some chipmakers rose, including Micron, which gained 8%, after Samsung announced it would cut production to support prices.
  • Friday's jobs report showed some strong payroll growth and a cooling down of wage inflation, which gave traders more confidence the Fed will increase rates again.
  • Investors eagerly await Wednesday's consumer price report and the first batch of companies to report their first-quarter financial results this week, such as big banks like JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo and Citigroup.
  • Hong Kong markets were closed for the Easter holiday. Meanwhile, China stocks fell on Monday amid increased geopolitical tensions surrounding the Taiwan Strait and a plunge in ChatGPT-related shares that dampened overall sentiment.
  • On a positive note, investors welcomed the new IPO system on China's main boards, which other Chinese exchanges for tech and startups had already implemented.

👄Some comments and chatter:

  • "With the employment landscape remaining surprisingly robust despite the cumulative global policy tightening in place, the Fed's looming rate decision will almost entirely be contingent on the March CPI report," wrote Ian Lyngen, head of US rate strategy at BMO Capital Markets, in a note.
  • "Investors are still convincing themselves that the Fed will raise interest rates by 25 basis points in May which could add to the likelihood of an impending recession. And investor agita is increased ahead of (this week's) CPI and PPI reports." said Sam Stovall, chief investment strategist of CFRA Research in New York.

🛢Oil: Oil prices fell because some worried that if interest rates went up, it would hurt oil demand. On the other hand, OPEC+ producers are cutting back on supply, which could make the market tighter. With this, US crude dropped 0.1% to US$79.74, and Brent lost 0.2% to US$84.58 per barrel.

👛Bitcoin: At the time of writing, Bitcoin is up 4.56% at US$29,632.30.

😮Dalai Lama scandal: A video surfaced of the Dalai Lama kissing a child on the lips and then requesting “suck my tongue” at an event in India in February. On Monday, the office of the Dalai Lama announced that he wants to apologize to the boy and his family, as well as anyone who his words may have hurt. He also apparently “regrets” the incident.

💣Bakhmut “scorched earth”: Earlier in March, Ukraine expected the city of Bakhmut to fall to Russian forces, but it’s still being fought over. Ukraine is now accusing Russia of using the “scorched earth” tactics they used in Syria in Bakhmut.

🛶Migrant boats: Over the weekend, a migrant boat sank in the Mediterranean between Tunisia and Italy. Rescuers reached the site on Saturday and were able to save 22 people. But 20 are still missing, and at least two are dead. Another migrant boat with 400 passengers on board has gone off-course between Italy and Malta. Rescue missions have been sent out. And there is one more migrant boat carrying 800 people that is currently in trouble, with rescuers coming to bring passengers to shore.

🗻Deadly avalanche in the French Alps: On Sunday, an avalanche hit the Armancette glacier in the French Alps. The conditions that day were good, so the avalanche was unexpected. At least six people died, and a few others were injured.

💬Macron speaks on Taiwan:  French Prez Emmanuel Macron visited China for three days last week and spoke with Xi about a few different topics, one of those Taiwan. Now back in Europe, Macron is pushing for the EU to keep an independent platform on Taiwan and not just follow China or the US in their policies.

👷‍♀️China’s boost for building: China plans to invest in a lot of big projects this year, including transport infrastructure, energy generation and industrial parks. All this will up construction spending to around 12.2 trillion yuan (US$1.8 trillion, according to a Bloomberg analysis. That’s a boost of about 17% more than last year.

🚀India’s space race: India is taking advantage of China and Russia’s isolation to creep into the profitable space industry, offering itself as a viable alternative for companies like SpaceX. State-owned NewSpace India already launched three comms satellites last month for OneWeb, so the country’s ambitions to break into the over US$500 billion industry are clear.

🔋Warnings against public charging stations: Have you ever used a public phone charging station at the airport or the mall? Well, the FBI is saying that we should stay away from them, as hackers can put malware and spyware onto devices through these stations. Be careful and invest in a power bank!

🛴Hong Kong scoots: Hong Kong is all set to approve e-scooter use in a trial program on two cycle tracks, but it will enforce a speed limit. The tracks set to be approved for the trial are in Tseung Kwan O and Pak Shek Kok.

⛳Masters millions: Golfer Jon Rahm has won the biggest prize ever in the Masters Tournament, held every year in Augusta, Georgia. After winning first prize, Rahm walked away with US$3.24 million. The PGA, which runs the tournament, is trying to keep players interested and prevent them from straying to rival Saudi-backed league LIV Golf.

🚗BYD EV showcase: Last year, Chinese car company BYD announced its U9 EV online. Now, it’s been showcased IRL for the first time a week ahead of the Shanghai auto show. The U9 is a luxury EV with some pretty neat features – it can jump up and down, speed up from 0-60 in two seconds, and even drive on just three of its wheels.

📺Kim K joins AHS12: Kim Kardashian is no stranger to the small screen, but her acting roles have been pretty small and far between. Well, now she can add another credit to her resume with the announcement of her addition to the cast for “American Horror Story” Season 12, coming out later this year. How iconic.

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Written and put together by Joey Fung, Vanessa Wolosz, Shebby Farooq and Christine Dulion