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SenseTime’s public debut may be spoiled by US-China tensions

Jacob Scott

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The Chinese artificial intelligence startup is supposed to price shares Friday as it readies an initial public offering in Hong Kong, where it plans to raise up to $767 million.

But the news is being overshadowed by reports that Washington could spoil the party by adding SenseTime to another trading blacklist.

The Financial Times reported Thursday that Washington had decided to place the company on a list of “Chinese military-industrial complex companies,” in which US President Joe Biden has banned Americans from investing.

The action will be taken by the US Treasury on Friday, according to unidentified sources who spoke with the newspaper. The Treasury Department did not respond to a request for comment from CNN Business on Thursday.

SenseTime did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The decision is timed to coincide with Human Rights Day, according to an anonymous source who spoke with Bloomberg, adding that US officials plan to accuse SenseTime of enabling human rights abuses.
SenseTime, one of the world’s most valuable AI companies, has faced controversy in recent years over allegations that it has been involved in human rights violations against Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in Xinjiang.
The firm’s Beijing subsidiary is already on the US entity list, which means they are barred from buying US products or importing American technology without a special license.
SenseTime said in its IPO prospectus that the ban does not “apply to other group entities that are legally distinct” from the Beijing unit.

The company also claimed that “none of our material investors, customers or suppliers had withdrawn their investment or ceased doing business with us due to the Entity List addition.”

But it has acknowledged potential headwinds, saying that “we are subject to the risks associated with international trade policies, geopolitics and trade protection measures, and our business, financial condition and results of operations could be adversely affected.”

AI under scrutiny

SenseTime, which was founded in 2014 in Hong Kong, generates hundreds of millions of dollars a year in revenue by deploying technology for everything from smart city systems to driverless vehicles.
The company is no stranger to the international spotlight, at one point even becoming the world’s most valuable AI startup in 2018. It is also a member of China’s national AI team, which aids the country with its tech superpower ambitions.

But the firm is best known for its facial recognition software, which has long been subject to controversy.

The use of such technology in policing and domestic security is widespread across China, but especially in the western region of Xinjiang, where up to 2 million people from Uyghur and other ethnic Muslim minorities have allegedly been put into internment camps, according to the US State Department.
Beijing maintains that the camps are vocational training centers that help to deradicalize citizens. But Uyghur exiles have described the crackdown as “cultural genocide,” with former detainees saying they were indoctrinated and abused.

Earlier this year, IPVM, an independent group that monitors video surveillance technology, said that SenseTime was mentioned in a patent application in July 2019, which suggested that it could identify people by ethnicity, specifically singling out “Uyghur” as a possibility.
The finding was the latest in a series of revelations questioning the facial recognition practices of Chinese tech giants, including Alibaba (BABA) and Huawei.

In a statement at the time, SenseTime told CNN Business that the reference to Uyghurs was “regrettable,” adding that it was “one of the examples within the application intended to illustrate the attributes the algorithm recognizes.”

“It was neither designed nor intended in any way to discriminate, which is against our values,” a spokesperson said. “We will update the patent at the next available opportunity.”

More recently in its investment prospectus, SenseTime said that its “previous sales to customers in Xinjiang were in compliance with” Chinese laws, and that income from those sales were less than 1% over the last three years.

The company is currently planning to price shares between 3.85 and 3.99 Hong Kong dollars, or roughly 50 cents apiece, according to a stock exchange filing. That would put its valuation at approximately $17 billion at the top end of the range.

SenseTime is set to start trading in Hong Kong next Friday.

— Brian Fung and Ben Westcott contributed to this report.

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‘Moon Knight’ Took Marvel in a Different Orbit, but It Didn’t Rise to the Occasion

Jacob Scott

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Before anyone writes that off as an anomaly, “Eternals” tackled a similar introduction of a dense mythology on the bigger screen, with equally mixed results. It’s a reminder that while film-goers have had more than a decade to get to know characters like Iron Man, Captain America and Thor, introducing some of these lesser-known heroes can pose a more formidable challenge beyond catering to the most ardent fans.
For Marvel, there are warning signs in that, since “Moon Knight” will be followed by several series based on second-tier characters, although the next two on the horizon, “Ms. Marvel” (which is due in June) and “She-Hulk,” at least have the benefit of sharing franchises and name recognition with existing Avengers.
Ultimately, “Moon Knight’s” murky storytelling appeared to squander its principal assets, which included the cool look of the character — a costume that was too seldom used — and the presence of Isaac, who possesses additional genre credentials via the “Star Wars” sequels.

Taking its time in peeling back the layers of the character’s complicated backstory, “Moon Knight” took a weird plunge into the Egyptian mythology behind it, in ways that became increasingly confounding and surreal.

By the time the protagonist’s two halves, Steven Grant and Marc Spector, wound up in a psychiatric hospital talking to an anthropomorphic hippo in the penultimate chapter, the question wasn’t so much being able to keep up with the story as whether bothering to do so was worth the effort.

The sixth and final episode brought the plot to a messy close, seeking to stop the goddess Ammit from proceeding to “purify the souls of Cairo, and then the world.” In the customary credit sequence, the producers capped that off by introducing a third personality, Jake Lockley, also rooted in the comics. While that seemingly spelled the end for the show’s villain (Ethan Hawke), the finish — giving the god Khonshu the protégé he sought — paved the way for further adventures should Marvel so choose.

That last twist might be cause for celebration in narrower confines of the Marvel fan universe, but “Moon Knight” too often felt like it was one long Easter-egg sequence, conspicuously preaching to that choir.

Granted, Marvel has made clear that Disney+ offers the chance to explore different kinds of stories, but “Moon Knight” feels at best like a quirky showcase for Isaac and at worst a failed experiment in terms of execution and tone.

That doesn’t mean this “Moon” won’t somehow rise again, if the closely held streaming data justifies it. But the promise that surrounded this property has faded, providing further evidence that even Marvel isn’t immune from setbacks as it moves into its next phase.

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Start-up Pony.ai says it’s the first self-driving company to get a taxi license in China

Jacob Scott

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Autonomous driving start-up Pony.ai can collect fares for robotaxi rides in parts of two major Chinese cities as of Sunday.

Pony.ai handout

BEIJING — Self-driving start-up Pony.ai announced Sunday it received a taxi license, the first of its kind in China.

The license allows Pony.ai to operate 100 self-driving cars as traditional taxis in the Nansha district of the southern city of Guangzhou, the company said.

The Chinese start-up, which is backed by Toyota, received approval from Beijing city late last year to charge fees to operate a commercial robotaxi business in a suburban district of the city. It is not the same as a taxi licence.

Baidu’s Apollo Go also received approval in the same Beijing district last year.

Pony.ai was valued at $8.5 billion in early March. The company said its Nansha taxi license required 24 months of autonomous driving testing in China and/or other countries, and no involvement in any active liability traffic accidents, among other factors.

The start-up said it plans to launch commercial robotaxi businesses in two other large Chinese cities next year. The company is already testing self-driving cars in those cities and in California. 

Robotaxis in China currently have a human driver present for safety.

— CNBC’s Arjun Kharpal contributed to this report.

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How to watch Timberwolves vs. Grizzlies: TV channel, NBA live stream info, start time

Jacob Scott

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Who’s Playing

Memphis @ Minnesota

Current Records: Memphis 2-1; Minnesota 1-2

What to Know

The Memphis Grizzlies’ road trip will continue as they head to Target Center at 10 p.m. ET this past Saturday to face off against the Minnesota Timberwolves. Memphis will be strutting in after a win while Minnesota will be stumbling in from a loss.

The Grizzlies are hoping for another victory. They beat the Timberwolves 104-95 this past Thursday. The victory came about thanks to a strong surge after the first quarter to overcome a 39-21 deficit. Memphis’ success was spearheaded by the efforts of power forward Brandon Clarke, who had 20 points in addition to eight rebounds, and shooting guard Desmond Bane, who shot 7-for-15 from beyond the arc and finished with 26 points and six boards.

Barring any buzzer beaters, Memphis is expected to win a tight contest. They might be worth taking a chance on against the spread as they are currently on a two-game streak of ATS wins.

Memphis’ win brought them up to 2-1 while the Timberwolves’ defeat pulled them down to a reciprocal 1-2. A couple offensive stats to keep in the back of your head while watching: The Grizzlies come into the game boasting the second most points per game in the league at 115.6. But Minnesota is even better: they rank first in the league when it comes to points per game, with 115.9 on average. Tune in for what’s sure to be a high-scoring contest.

How To Watch

When: Saturday at 10 p.m. ET Where: Target Center — Minneapolis, Minnesota TV: ESPN Online streaming: fuboTV (Try for free. Regional restrictions may apply.) Follow: CBS Sports App Ticket Cost: $76.96

Odds

The Grizzlies are a slight 2.5-point favorite against the Timberwolves, according to the latest NBA odds.

The oddsmakers had a good feel for the line for this one, as the game opened with the Grizzlies as a 3-point favorite.

Over/Under: -110

See NBA picks for every single game, including this one, from SportsLine’s advanced computer model. Get picks now.

Series History

Memphis have won 19 out of their last 28 games against Minnesota.

Apr 21, 2022 – Memphis 104 vs. Minnesota 95 Apr 19, 2022 – Memphis 124 vs. Minnesota 96 Apr 16, 2022 – Minnesota 130 vs. Memphis 117 Feb 24, 2022 – Minnesota 119 vs. Memphis 114 Jan 13, 2022 – Memphis 116 vs. Minnesota 108 Nov 20, 2021 – Minnesota 138 vs. Memphis 95 Nov 08, 2021 – Memphis 125 vs. Minnesota 118 May 05, 2021 – Memphis 139 vs. Minnesota 135 Apr 02, 2021 – Memphis 120 vs. Minnesota 108 Jan 13, 2021 – Memphis 118 vs. Minnesota 107 Jan 07, 2020 – Memphis 119 vs. Minnesota 112 Dec 01, 2019 – Memphis 115 vs. Minnesota 107 Nov 06, 2019 – Memphis 137 vs. Minnesota 121 Mar 23, 2019 – Minnesota 112 vs. Memphis 99 Feb 05, 2019 – Memphis 108 vs. Minnesota 106 Jan 30, 2019 – Minnesota 99 vs. Memphis 97 Nov 18, 2018 – Memphis 100 vs. Minnesota 87 Apr 09, 2018 – Minnesota 113 vs. Memphis 94 Mar 26, 2018 – Memphis 101 vs. Minnesota 93 Dec 04, 2017 – Memphis 95 vs. Minnesota 92 Feb 04, 2017 – Memphis 107 vs. Minnesota 99 Nov 19, 2016 – Memphis 93 vs. Minnesota 71 Nov 01, 2016 – Minnesota 116 vs. Memphis 80 Oct 26, 2016 – Memphis 102 vs. Minnesota 98 Mar 16, 2016 – Minnesota 114 vs. Memphis 108 Feb 19, 2016 – Memphis 109 vs. Minnesota 104 Jan 23, 2016 – Minnesota 106 vs. Memphis 101 Nov 15, 2015 – Memphis 114 vs. Minnesota 106

Injury Report for Minnesota

No Injury Information

Injury Report for Memphis

Dillon Brooks: Game-Time Decision (Foot) Santi Aldama: Out (Knee) Killian Tillie: Out (Knee)

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