From EV sales on the rise to new "Brainoware" AI tech – Here are today's Headlines

Over the past decade, car manufacturers like Tesla, BYD and Rivian, have been in a competitive race to develop more efficient and affordable electric vehicles (EVs).

From EV sales on the rise to new "Brainoware" AI tech – Here are today's Headlines
A Tesla electric vehicle is plugged to a charger Teia, north of Barcelona, Spain, October 31, 2023. REUTERS/Albert Gea/File Photo

To start off, we're looking into:

Global EV sales jump

The backstory: Over the past decade, car manufacturers like Tesla, BYD and Rivian, have been in a competitive race to develop more efficient and affordable electric vehicles (EVs). Even legacy carmakers, like General Motors and Volvo, are getting into the game. As we approach 2024, they're not just working on new designs but also asking for extra support from policymakers for the cost of transitioning to EVs and the overall growing EV manufacturing industry. High interest rates and inadequate charging infrastructure pose some obstacles, limiting accessibility to EVs for many. But despite these challenges, more and more people worldwide are looking to electric cars, especially in China, Europe and the US.

The development: Recent market info from research firm Rho Motion shows that global electric car sales went up by 20% from last year. In November, battery-powered EVs made up 70% of those sales, with plug-in hybrids accounting for 30%. Even though there were concerns about slowing demand, monthly sales set a record at 1.4 million units. Click the link here for more.

X’s revenue drop

Elon Musk X advertisers
Musk Twitter account is seen in this illustration taken, July 24, 2023. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo

The backstory: Last year, Elon Musk made headlines by buying out Twitter for US$44 billion and rebranding it as X. After the takeover, he started shaking things up, from limiting blue-check verification to X Premium subscribers to tweaking post limits and ditching the block feature. Notably, content moderation rules were also relaxed, resulting in a surge of offensive posts that didn't sit well with advertisers.

More recently: In November, X faced a challenge when major advertisers, like Warner Bros. Discovery, Sony, IBM, Apple, Lionsgate, Disney, Comcast and Paramount Global, all paused ad spending on the platform. This came after some drama over Musk seeming to support an antisemitic post on the platform, as well as a report surfacing that some corporate posts had been shown next to offensive content. Musk apologized afterward, but at a recent conference, he gave boycotting advertisers a piece of his mind, telling them to “go f**k” themselves and calling the boycott “blackmail.” But he also pointed out that the drop in ad revenue could “kill the company.”

The development: Recent reports have surfaced from insiders saying X has seen a major hit in its ad revenue, potentially landing at around US$2.5 billion – a drop from previous years. Click the link here for more.

AI built using human brain cells

Artificial Intelligence
Artificial Intelligence words are seen in this illustration taken March 31, 2023. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo/File Photo

The backstory: Artificial intelligence (AI) technology has come a long way in the past year, but it still has its limitations. Right now, the traditional and generative AI we use is impressive, but it only really knows how to copy and emulate human intelligence, Frankenstein-ing ideas and concepts together based on the human-made ideas and concepts that already exist. It doesn’t actually process information independently and create new content. Generally speaking, computers are typically better at dealing with numbers and doing math than human brains, but humans are better at untangling complicated info. To see past this roadblock, scientists have been looking toward integrating biological systems into artificial computers. Yeah – human biological systems.

The development: Researchers at the University of Indiana Bloomington have now built a hybrid AI computer system using lab-grown human brain cell “organoid” clumps and circuits. Scientists then fed it a bunch of voice recordings to see if the tech could recognize different human voices. Click the link here for more.

Hong Kong The Blomstre
The Blomstre

The Blomstre, a family-owned eco-soy candle company based in Hong Kong, has just launched its much-anticipated holiday campaign collection, "Home for Christmas." This charming candle collection comprises four limited edition scents, each crafted to evoke the warm and familiar aromas of the holiday season. 

Shop here today, and get HK$100 off any purchase over HK$300 using “TMS100” at checkout. Valid until March 31, 2024, 11:59 p.m.

To end, we'll look into:

Asteroid sample’s first findings

Bennu asteroid
An artist's concept of the dwarf planet Eris and its moon Dysnomia is seen in this undated illustration released by NASA. The sun is the small star in the distance. NASA/JPL-Caltech/Handout via REUTERS 

After seven years and over US$1 billion, NASA’s Bennu Asteroid OSIRIS-REx mission came back with samples of asteroid dust back in September. While scientists haven’t been able to open the sample canister yet due to problems with two of the screws that hold the lid, we're starting to learn a lot from the little bits that they were able to collect with tweezers.  

The Bennu asteroid is around 4.5 billion years old, and its makeup could hold the secrets of our solar system and to life itself – which is around the same age. In fact, some of the minerals on Bennu might be even older than the solar system. Because Bennu is still in space, its surface hasn’t been contaminated by Earthly materials, like meteor samples we’ve collected in the past.

And what we’ve been able to recover from it so far is drumming up excitement among scientists. Click the link here for more.

In other news ...


📉Market snapshot and key quotes:

  • In the US: US stocks jumped to record highs on Wednesday following the Fed's signal that it would cut interest rates next year. 
  • In Hong Kong: Hong Kong stocks closed lower due to disappointment over the absence of major economy stimulus plans at this week’s economic meeting.

📊Top gainers/losers and company news:

  • In the US: Pfizer tumbled nearly 7% following the release of new 2024 guidance that disappointed.
  • Tesla closed up around 1% despite news of its recall of 2 million vehicles.
  • In Hong Kong: Longfor Group dropped 2.5%, and China Resources Land fell over 3%.

👀The numbers everyone is watching:

  • In the US: November's Producer Price Index (PPI) held steady, contradicting expectations after October's 0.5% decline.
  • In Hong Kong: This week will see releases on China's 1-year MLF, retail sales, industrial production and the jobless rate.

📅To check out our economic calendar for this week, click here.

More headlines ...

📰Israel/Palestine updates: Looking for another approach to destroying Hamas, Israel has started flooding tunnels in Gaza said to be used by Hamas with seawater. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) has now suffered its largest casualties since October, announcing that 10 soldiers were killed in one day by Hamas. And, even though the UN voted to support a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, Israel is saying it'll destroy Hamas "with or without" international support. 

💵Argentina shocks its economy: Argentina swore in its new government and president, Javier Milei, earlier this week. Under the new Economic Minister Luis Caputo, the government just announced plans to shock Argentina's struggling economy back to life in some major shifts. It's expected to weaken the peso by over 50%, slash energy and transportation subsidies and cancel tenders for public works.

People walk by snacks being sold on the street while an Argentine flag is displayed in Buenos Aires, Argentina, December 12, 2023. REUTERS/Tomas Cuesta

🌏Historic climate agreement from COP28: After the original draft deal for COP28 was deemed too weak to be effective in fighting climate change, negotiators had to come up with a new climate agreement on the fly. While the new deal still doesn't explicitly mention "phasing out" fossil fuels, it calls for countries to transition away from them. UN member states also agreed to move toward tripling renewable energy and doubling energy efficiency by 2030.

🤝China and Vietnam boost ties: Chinese President Xi Jinping has been in Vietnam for two days on a visit to keep things friendly between the two countries and boost trade. They made a deal on mutual cooperation and also plan to advance security and intelligence ties. He ended his visit on Wednesday, saying that China and Vietnam are entering a new phase of diplomacy and that the two have a "shared future."  

🏎️Tesla's biggest recall: Tesla is known for implementing state-of-the-art tech into its cars, but it doesn't always work how it's supposed to. Now, the EV giant is staging its biggest recall yet, installing new safeguards on over 2 million cars in the US to fix and update the autopilot system to ensure drivers pay attention while using it. Also, Transport Canada said Tesla will recall 193,000 vehicles in the country to address the autopilot issue. It's not clear yet if China will demand a recall.

💐Farewell Andre Braugher: Known mostly for playing Captain Raymond Holt on the cop sitcom "Brooklyn Nine-Nine" and Det. Frank Pembleton on "Homicide: Life on the Street," Emmy-winning actor Andre Braugher has passed away at age 61 after a brief illness. He most recently starred in the 2022 film "She Said," about the New York Times journalists who broke the story of Harvey Weinstein's sexual abuse history. Rest in peace, Captain. 

Andre Braugher
Andre Braugher poses after winning an Emmy for outstanding lead actor in a miniseries or movie for his work on "Thief" during the 58th annual Primetime Emmy Awards at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles August 27, 2006. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni/File Photo

🥼Liver cancer treatment: In a medical breakthrough, the University of Hong Kong has said its researchers have developed a treatment for liver cancer that has cured a 65-year-old man in the late stage of the disease. The "reduce and remove" treatment aims to shrink the tumor down to a size that allows for a transplant. They've said this is the world's first treatment of its kind.

🏫Elon Musk's uni: According to tax filings for Elon Musk's charity, The Foundation, the billionaire plans to start a new university in Austin, Texas. It will launch at first with a STEM-focused primary and secondary school, with plans to eventually expand into a full-fledged university for higher education.

🐼Le Le the panda will return to China: China has a panda breeding program so that it can protect the species and continue sending pandas to zoos all over the world for people to visit. Now, Singapore is preparing to return 2-year-old panda Le Le back to China to participate in the breeding program. The first panda born in Singapore, Le Le will be missed, but he got a warm send-off during his final public appearance on Wednesday at the River Wonders wildlife park before a month-long quarantine ahead of his departure in January.

🐿️Squirrels on bad behavior: Japan's been dealing with a rapidly growing population of invasive Formosan squirrels, and their squirrely behavior has been terrorizing the community. Not only have they damaged wooden shrines, but they've been stealing people's crops, chewing through power cables and burrowing into roofs. Local government officials are now looking to develop a program to humanely trap and cull the squirrels to deal with the issue.

Quiz Time!

How much have global EV sales gone up since last year?

  • 20%
  • 54%
  • 16%

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