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Chinese AI startup SenseTime raises $600 million from Alibaba, others

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Alibaba founder Jack Ma waits on the floor at the New York Stock Exchange in New York on September 19, 2014.

Jewel Samad | AFP | Getty Images

Alibaba founder Jack Ma waits on the floor at the New York Stock Exchange in New York on September 19, 2014.

SenseTime is a little-known AI firm with a valuation reportedly higher than $3 million. The firm provides facial-recognition technology that can be used for things like bank card verification and counts state-owned telecommunications giant China Mobile, phone maker Huawei and U.S. chipmaker Nvidia among its clients.

The latest round of investment followed a $410 million capital injection SenseTime received in July last year. Its Series C round, the third stage of funding for a company, was also backed by Chinese retailer Suning.com and Singaporean state wealth fund Temasek.

SenseTime has partnered with Honda on autonomous driving and Qualcomm on algorithms and smart technology. Qualcomm has also backed SenseTime in a funding round last year, although the size of the investment has not been disclosed.

SenseTime said it will use the raised capital to expand its AI platform, advance its technological innovation and open up new business opportunities.

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Ransomware attack forces shutdown of largest fuel pipeline in the U.S.

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Signage is displayed on a fence at the Colonial Pipeline Co. Pelham junction and tank farm in Pelham, Alabama, U.S., on Monday, Sept. 19, 2016.

Luke Sharrett | Bloomberg | Getty Images

The country’s top fuel pipeline operator Colonial Pipeline fell victim to a cybersecurity attack on Friday that involved ransomware, forcing it to temporarily shut down all pipeline operations, the company said in a statement on Saturday.

The firm has hired a third-party cybersecurity firm to launch a probe into the incident and has contacted law enforcement and other federal agencies. The cyberattack has affected some of its IT systems too.

Colonial Pipeline, which transports nearly half of the East Coast’s fuel supply, said it is “taking steps to understand and resolve this issue.”

“At this time, our primary focus is the safe and efficient restoration of our service and our efforts to return to normal operation,” the company said in a statement.

“This process is already underway, and we are working diligently to address this matter and to minimize disruption to our customers and those who rely on Colonial Pipeline,” the company said.

Colonial Pipeline is the largest refined products pipeline in the country, transporting 100 million gallons or 2.5 million barrels per day, according to its website. Its system spans over 5,500 miles between Texas and New Jersey.

Refined products include gasoline, diesel, home heating oil and jet fuel.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which oversees interstate pipelines, said it is aware of the cyberattack and is monitoring the situation.

 “We are aware of what appears to have been a serious cyberattack on the Colonial Pipeline system,” Chairman Richard Glick said in a statement to CNBC. “FERC is in communication with other federal agencies, and we are working closely with them to monitor developments.”

The Biden administration in April announced a 100-day plan to protect the country’s electric system supply chain from cyberattacks amid growing concerns over how vulnerable the U.S. power supply is to cyber threats.

A U.S. Department of Energy spokesperson said the department is coordinating with Colonial Pipeline, the energy sector, states and interagency partners to support response efforts.

“DOE is also working closely with the energy sector coordinating councils and the energy information sharing and analysis centers, and is monitoring any potential impacts to energy supply,” the spokesperson told CNBC.

Andy Lipow, president of Texas-based Lipow Oil Associates, said an outage that last one to two days would cause some minor inconveniences and that more widespread impact would occur after four to five days of shutdown.

There could be potential sporadic outages as well if a specific terminal was relying on a delivery today or tomorrow and that is now delayed, Lipow said.

“Unlike the February freeze or hurricane, refineries are still in operation turning crude into gasoline, jet and diesel. They just can’t get it to the terminals,” Lipow said. “An extended colonial pipeline outage will force refiners to reduce their operating rates as inventory in the refinery fills up.”

“While they may not be able to ship it to Colonial, the refineries will certainly be able to continue shipping to the Midwest markets,” Lipow said.

Colonial Pipeline is privately held by five entities: CDPQ Colonial Partners, L.P.; IFM (U.S.) Colonial Pipeline 2, LLC; KKR-Keats Pipeline Investors, L.P.; Koch Capital Investments Company, LLC; and Shell Midstream Operating, LLC.

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Pope Francis backs Biden call to waive Covid vaccine patents

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Pope Francis wearing a face mask attends an inter-religious prayer service for peace along with other religious representatives in the Basilica of Santa Maria in Aracoeli, a church on top of Rome’s Capitoline Hill, in Rome, Italy, Oct. 20, 2020.

Guglielmo Mangiapane | Reuters

Pope Francis on Saturday came out in favor of a waiver on intellectual property rights for coronavirus vaccines, echoing comments made by the U.S. administration earlier this week.

World Trade Organization leaders have recently urged member nations to come to an agreement on the potential vaccine patent waivers, hoping to remove obstacles to the ramping up of vaccine production in developing countries.

President Joe Biden’s team endorsed the idea on Wednesday with Trade Representative Katherine Tai saying in a statement that it “supports the waiver of those protections for COVID-19 vaccines.”

Speaking at a global fundraising event on Saturday, Pope Francis said the world was infected with the “virus of individualism.”

“A variant of this virus is closed nationalism, which prevents, for example, an internationalism of vaccines,” he said in comments translated by Reuters.

“Another variant is when we put the laws of the market or of intellectual market or intellectual property over the laws of love and the health of humanity,” the pope added.

Vaccine makers, whose stock prices were impacted by the comments earlier this week, have come out against the idea. Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla warned Friday that it would set off a worldwide race for raw materials that threatened the safe and efficient manufacturing of vaccines.

Germany and Chancellor Angela Merkel have also come out against the waiver, with the country’s BioNTech being a key partner for Pfizer in the development of its vaccine. German and other European officials argue that making and sharing vaccines more quickly is crucial in ending the pandemic. 

“The limiting factor in vaccine manufacturing is production capacity and high quality standards, not patents,” a spokeswoman for Merkel said in a statement.

PhRMA, a pharma industry interest group, has called the waiver proposal “an unprecedented step that will undermine our global response to the pandemic and compromise safety.”

To date, there have been nearly 157 million coronavirus infections across the globe and over 3.2 million deaths, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

—CNBCs Rich Mendez and Kevin Breuninger contributed to this article.

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Chinese rocket expected to plunge back to Earth

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WENCHANG, CHINA – APRIL 29 2021: A Long March-5B Y2 rocket, carrying the Tianhe module for the Chinese space station, blasts off from the Wenchang Spacecraft Launch Site in Wenchang in south China’s Hainan province Thursday, April 29, 2021.

Barcroft Media | Barcroft Media | Getty Images

The debris from a Chinese rocket is expected to crash land back on Earth this weekend with experts trying to work out exactly when and where the remnants will touch down.

The Long March 5B was launched on April 29 at the Wenchang Space Launch Center in China. It’s mission was to carry into orbit a module containing living quarters for a future Chinese space station.

But after completing that task, the body of the rocket is now circling Earth and will soon re-enter the lower atmosphere. The uncontrolled nature of its reentry has left experts concerned about the potential impact it could have when it lands. The large piece of space junk measures 98 feet long and 16.5 feet wide and it weighs 21 metric tons.

The federally-funded research firm The Aerospace Corporation posted a tweet late Friday saying its prediction for landing was eight hours either side of 4:19 GMT time on Sunday morning. It pinpointed an area near the north island of New Zealand as a possible reentry point, but said it could happen anywhere across large parts of the planet.

Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Wang Wenbin said at a press conference Friday that it was “common practice” across the world for the upper stages of rockets to burn up while reentering the atmosphere.

“China is following closely the upper stage’s reentry into the atmosphere. To my knowledge, the upper stage of this rocket has been deactivated, which means that most of its parts will burn up upon reentry, making the likelihood of damage to aviation or ground facilities and activities extremely low,” he said, according to a translation on the ministry’s website.

On Thursday, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin told reporters that the United States had no plans to shoot it down and was hopeful that it will land in a place where it won’t harm anyone.

“I think this speaks to the fact that for those of us who operate in the space domain, that there is a requirement — there should be a requirement to — to operate in a safe and — and thoughtful mode, and make sure that we take those kinds of things into — into consideration as we plan and conduct operations,” he said.

Indeed, it is common for rockets and pieces of space junk to fall back to Earth. Last year, an 18-ton Chinese rocket passed over Los Angeles and New York City’s Central Park before falling into the Atlantic Ocean.

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