From the future of China's SenseTime to a Christmas "Barbie" remix – Here are today's Headlines

Founded in 2014, Chinese firm SenseTime is a big player in the artificial intelligence (AI) software field.

From the future of China's SenseTime to a Christmas "Barbie" remix – Here are today's Headlines
People stand in front of a sign of SenseTime during World Artificial Intelligence Conference, following the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Shanghai, China, September 1, 2022. REUTERS/Aly Song/File Photo

To start off, we're looking into:

What’s next for SenseTime?

The backstory: Founded in 2014, Chinese firm SenseTime is a big player in the artificial intelligence (AI) software field. Specializing in face and image analysis, the company collaborates globally with law enforcement, retailers and health care researchers. Tang Xiao'ou, born in 1968 and an MIT alumni, was one of SenseTime's co-founders and was considered a pioneer in China’s AI sector. The company, earlier backed by Alibaba, made a highly anticipated debut on the Hong Kong stock exchange in 2021. Its Hong Kong initial public offering (IPO) raised HK$5.78 billion (US$740 million). Tang, holding a 21% stake according to the company’s 2022 report, was last worth US$1.1 billion on the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

The development: On Saturday, SenseTime announced that its co-founder Tang had suddenly passed away at 55 due to an untreatable illness. With his 21% ownership in the company, investors got a bit worried by the news, and SenseTime's stock dropped by over 10% in Hong Kong on Monday. The company said Tang's passing wouldn't cause big disruptions, but there were concerns about how it could affect the company considering he owned a big chunk of it. Click the link here for more.

Hong Kong’s focus on tourism

Hong Kong economy
A general view of Landmark, the upscale shopping mall, in Hong Kong, China November 30, 2023. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu

The backstory: During the height of the pandemic, COVID restrictions and China's zero-COVID policy led to economic challenges in Hong Kong. And the city’s recovery since then has been slower than expected. Hong Kong’s economy contracted by 3.5% last year, and the city has seen a talent and business exodus on top of an ongoing property crisis. John Lee stepped into the role of Hong Kong’s chief executive last year, with the task of tackling the aftermath and restoring the city’s status as an international finance and business hub. 

The development: Lee was just on a duty visit to Beijing from last Sunday to Wednesday to brief state leaders on Hong Kong's recent economic, social and political developments. During this session, President Xi showed optimism about Hong Kong's future under Lee's leadership, praising him for maintaining national security and navigating the district council system effectively. Lee, in a briefing with mainland Chinese ministries, outlined Hong Kong's priorities, including a focus on attracting high-value visitors and promoting high-quality tourism development. Click the link here for more.

Red Sea attacks affect Asia’s supply chain

Red Sea
A Houthi fighter stands on the Galaxy Leader cargo ship in the Red Sea in this photo released November 20, 2023. Houthi Military Media/Handout via REUTERS

The backstory: The Yemen-based Houthi militant group is backed by Iran, and it has control over most of the northern part of Yemen. The Houthis are big supporters of Palestine in the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas. Over the past few weeks, Houthi militants have been attacking commercial ships in the Red Sea – especially those linked to the West or Israel.

More recently: The attacks have become such a major threat that some shipping giants and oil companies are changing routes so they don’t have to go through the Suez Canal. MSC, Maersk, Hapag Lloyd, CMA CGM, Yang Ming Marine Transport and Evergreen all announced plans to redirect routes. And, Evergreen is also suspending services bound for Israel. Orient Overseas Container Line (OOCL) isn’t accepting Israeli cargo, either. Many ships bound for Asia are going all the way around Africa to reach their destinations.

The development: We’re approaching the peak of the holiday season, and a supply chain crisis could be in the air. It’s estimated that ships going all the way around the Cape of Good Hope in Africa are adding up to two weeks’ time to their shipping routes. Click the link here for more.

To end, we'll look into:

AI and end-of-life care

Artificial Intelligence
An AI (Artificial Intelligence) sign is seen at the World Artificial Intelligence Conference (WAIC) in Shanghai, China July 6, 2023. REUTERS/Aly Song/

Can artificial intelligence (AI) help us live forever? Or will it wipe humanity out entirely? These are looming questions ever since the rapid development of AI, kickstarted by OpenAI’s release of ChatGPT. But there are other questions on the table now, too. Can AI help us die? Can it help us figure out end-of-life care?

“When someone is actively declining, you can see it, but being able to predict before that happens is hard,” explains Dr. Mihir Kamdar, who works with Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.

The faster we figure this out, the more comfortable and cared for someone can be as their life comes to a close.

A group of doctors in New Jersey are trying to figure this out to help improve end-of-life and palliative care. They’re experimenting with an AI tool called Serious Illness Care Connect for calculating the likelihood that a patient will die within the next six months, which is the general medical standard for receiving end-of-life hospice care. If the tool finds that chance to be 70% or higher, then an evaluation for end-of-life hospice care is recommended. Click the link here for more.

In other news ...


📉Market snapshot and key quotes:

  • In the US: US stocks took a hit on Wednesday, after nine days in the green, mainly driven by investors cashing in some of the earnings.
  • In Hong Kong: Hong Kong stocks closed higher on Wednesday, driven by optimism over potential interest rate cuts by the Fed next year. 

📊Top gainers/losers and company news:

  • In the US: FedEx dropped more than 12% after a disappointing fiscal year revenue outlook and Q2 results that didn't meet expectations.
  • In Hong Kong: Alibaba rose by over 2%, climbed by 3.3%, and Li Ning surged by 2%. 

👀The numbers everyone is watching:

  • In the US: Home sales in November beat expectations, rising 0.8% from the previous month to 3.82 million units. 
  • In Hong Kong: The People’s Bank of China maintained the one-year loan prime rate at 3.45% and the five-year benchmark loan rate for mortgages at 4.2%.

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

More headlines ...

📰Israel/Palestine update: For a few days, we've been seeing talks of possible renewed talks between Israel and Hamas, and it looks like those talks are on the horizon. Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh is currently in Egypt to talk with officials about a possible truce. In the meantime, Gaza's estimated death toll is closing in at 20,000. And, a UN Security Council vote on boosting Gaza aid keeps being delayed. Negotiations between the US and Egypt are causing this vote to go into overtime, but the US seems to be avoiding using its veto power.

🤝Venezuela-US prisoner swap: Tensions between the US and Venezuela have been easing lately, with the US lifting some economic sanctions on Venezuela after it agreed to move toward freer and fairer elections. Now, President Nicolas Maduro's government has agreed to free at least 20 opposition-linked prisoners and 10 Americans. In return, the US released a key Maduro ally, Colombian businessman Alex Saab.

📄New immigration deal in EU: Recently, there have been rising anti-immigrant attitudes in Europe, often pushed by the far-right. Now, the EU has agreed to an immigration reform plan that's supposed to balance asylum costs across the bloc, make it easier to deport failed asylum seekers and limit the number of migrants altogether. Rights groups criticized the pact, saying it ignores several fundamental rights.

🧑‍⚖️Rwandan doctor sentenced: The Rwandan Tutsi genocide wreaked havoc across the country in 1994. Almost 30 years later, a 68-year-old man named Sosthene Munyemana has been sentenced in France to 24 years in prison for his role in this catastrophe. A former doctor, Munyemana allegedly helped round people up and imprisoned them inhumanely in local government offices before they were killed. 

📺Polish public media shifts: The Polish government used to manage a TV station, a radio station and a state news agency. But Poland got a new government last week, which has decided to do away with state-run media. The new administration says this move is a step toward "impartiality."

📩DR Congo elections: General elections for the Democratic Republic of the Congo began on Wednesday, but the entire process ended up in chaos. Incumbent President Felix Tshisekedi has been accused of "obviously planned electoral fraud" by the opposition. Many of the polling stations opened late, so voting has been extended through Thursday in some places. International eyes are on this election since the country is the world's third-largest copper producer and the top producer of cobalt, an essential battery component needed for green energy.

📜Epstein list will be released: Disgraced financier and infamous sex offender Jeffrey Epstein died in 2019 while awaiting trial for sex trafficking charges, and his death was ruled a suicide. But, a US judge ruled on Monday that a list containing more than 170 names of Epstein associates and victims will be released next year. People on the list have until January 1 to appeal and try and get their names removed. 

📩Russian election candidate: Next March, Russia is set to have its presidential election, with past elections drawing a lot of criticism for being statistically inaccurate. But incumbent President Vladimir Putin has already thrown his hat in the ring for another six-year term – he's been in power since 1999. On Wednesday, ex-TV journalist and anti-war advocate Yekaterina Duntsova submitted her own bid to run for president, making her the first person to officially go up against Putin, who is expected to win in a landslide.

🚫Trump disqualified in Colorado: Donald Trump is running for president again in the US in 2024. But the state of Colorado just announced that he's been disqualified from running on its ballot by its highest court because of his participation in the country's January 6 insurrection. His name won't appear on ballots in Colorado, but that doesn't mean he's disqualified in the rest of the country. Trump plans to appeal the ruling in the US Supreme Court.

🏠Hong Kong's new residency scheme: Hong Kong is starting a program mid-next year to offer residency to people who invest HK$30 million (US$3.8 million) into the city. It's all part of the city's efforts to boost the economy and restore its reputation as an international financial hub. The scheme includes a mandatory HK$3 million investment into a portfolio run by Hong Kong Investment Corp. to support local tech and innovation. Other eligible assets include stocks, debts and funds.

🎮Sony's big game leak: Sony's Insomniac Games makes the popular Marvel Spider-Man game series, and now hackers are saying they've leaked over 1.3 million files from the gaming giant. The leak reportedly includes game road maps, budgets and detailed information about the upcoming Wolverine game, which is apparently slated for 2026. On top of that, they reportedly also leaked info about employees, company payments, financial contracts and other data. The Rhysida ransomware group took responsibility last Tuesday, saying it would auction the data for around US$2 million in bitcoin. Then, the group published the info this Tuesday morning.

🎄Merry Kristmas Barbie: If you fell in love with the "I'm Just Ken" anthem from the recent film "Barbie," you're in luck. Ryan Gosling and Mark Ronson just released three remixes of the song, including a holiday version called "Merry Kristmas Barbie." Check it out below.

Quiz Time!

When was the Chinese AI firm SenseTime founded?

  1. 1999
  2. 2012
  3. 2014
  4. 2020

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

**The answer to the quiz is [3].