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Portugal Braces for Far-Right Surge in Election Upset

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Portugal’s official election campaign begins Sunday, with the March 10 legislative vote likely to see a breakthrough by populist parties after an influence peddling scandal brought down eight years of Socialist government.

Portugal, which this April celebrates half a century since its Carnation Revolution put an end to an almost equally long fascist dictatorship, has avoided the right-wing and anti-establishment parties that have recently scored successes elsewhere in Europe.

That exception is expected to end.

The Chega party (Enough in Portuguese), formed in 2019 by a former football commentator who has become an ardent critic of the country’s political and economic elites, is credited with 15 to 20% of the vote.

The surprise resignation of Socialist Prime Minister Antonio Costa, who is not running for re-election, has helped Chega, said Antonio Costa Pinto, a political scientist at the Institute of Social Sciences, University of Lisbon.

The theme of corruption, in this European conjuncture, favours the radical right, he said.

Far-right coalitions

Several European countries, including Italy, Slovakia, Hungary and Finland, are run by coalitions either headed by or including far-right parties.

The Netherlands could join this list after the victory of Geert Wilders in last November’s legislative elections.

Chega, which is anti-immigrant but not always anti-European Union, already became the country’s third largest political force in Portugal’s January 2022 elections with 7% of the vote and 12 deputies in the 230-seat parliament.

Andre Ventura, its president, aims to displace the centre-right Social Democratic Party (PSD) as the dominant force on Portugal’s right, which is expected to have a majority of the seats in parliament.

For the moment, the PSD is slightly ahead in the polls with about 30% of the vote, just in front of the incumbent Socialist Party.

PSD leader Luis Montenegro, who has formed an alliance with two small conservative parties, has for the moment ruled out any coalition with Chega.

No is no, Mr. Montenegro repeats each time the question is asked.

Mr. Costa’s successor at the Socialist Party, Pedro Nuno Santos, has said he wouldn’t block the formation of a minority government headed by the centre-right should they finish first but without a working majority.

But according to analyst Costa Pinto, the sanitary cordon around the extreme right hasn’t worked in other European democracies, and Portugal will be another example.

Prime Minister since the end of 2015, Mr. Costa improved the government’s finances and oversaw a largely healthy economy, but was brought down by a series of scandals.

The final blow came when a probe into influence peddling reached his own chief of staff, who was found with 75,800 euros ($82,000) in cash hidden in his office.

Mr. Costa’s name was cited in the probe, and he resigned in November, saying he wouldn’t seek a new term.

Huawei Cloud Summit Unveils 10 AI Innovations at MWC Barcelona, Spain

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The AI-optimized infrastructure with 10 systemic innovations unveiled at MWC Barcelona 2024 has positioned Huawei Cloud as the go-to choice for AI applications. The recent Huawei Cloud Summit showcased 10 AI-oriented innovations designed to create an AI-enabled infrastructure tailored to each industry, facilitating a seamless transition to intelligence. The event was attended by industry executives and experts from various sectors, emphasizing the importance of AI in shaping the future of cloud computing.

Our commitment to pushing boundaries and providing cutting-edge technology to customers worldwide is unwavering, stated Jacqueline Shi, President of Huawei Cloud Global Marketing and Sales Services. The extensive industry expertise embedded in the Pangu model further solidifies Huawei Cloud’s position as a leading cloud service provider, dedicated to enabling partners to grow alongside the latest advancements in AI technology.

Huawei Cloud’s Chief Technology Officer, Bruno Zhang, highlighted the significance of systematic innovation in harnessing AI capabilities within the cloud infrastructure. The 10 AI-oriented innovations unveiled at the summit encompass key elements such as distributed architecture, AI computing capabilities, AI-native storage solutions, end-to-end security measures, and the convergence of data and AI for enhanced performance and efficiency.

Furthermore, Huawei Cloud’s announcement of features like KooVerse, GaussDB, and flexible deployment options underscores the platform’s commitment to providing a comprehensive suite of services that cater to the diverse needs of customers across different industries. The focus on security, scalability, and seamless integration of data and AI further enhances the appeal of Huawei Cloud as a reliable partner for businesses looking to leverage AI for growth and innovation.

As the Mobile World Congress (MWC) 2024 approaches, Huawei Cloud remains poised to showcase its collaborative efforts with customers and partners, presenting real-world examples and innovative products that showcase the power of AI-driven solutions. With a global reach spanning across countries and regions, Huawei Cloud continues to lead the way in revolutionizing cloud computing through AI-driven innovations that set new benchmarks for performance, security, and scalability.

Ant Group Outbids Citadel for Credit Suisse’s China Venture, Switzerland

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Fintech giant Ant Group Co has outbid Billionaire Ken Griffin’s Citadel Securities for Credit Suisse’s investment bank venture in China, Bloomberg News reported on Sunday.

Alibaba Group affiliate Ant Group’s bid to build a securities business in China using embattled Swiss lender Credit Suisse’s operations will face a thorough review because Beijing favors a foreign buyer, the report said, citing people familiar with the matter.

UBS Group AG will now face a dilemma in choosing between the higher local bid from Ant, or the lower Citadel bid submitted in December offering about 1.5 billion yuan ($208.47 million) to 2 billion yuan that is more likely to win government approval, the report added.

UBS, Ant Group and Citadel did not immediately respond to Reuters requests for comment.

UBS’ takeover of Credit Suisse, the biggest bank merger since the 2008 global financial crisis, was hastily arranged last year by Swiss authorities to avert Credit Suisse’s collapse.

Earlier this month, Reuters reported that UBS was planning headcount cuts in the coming months as the bank’s China-focused bankers swelled after it took over Credit Suisse. ($1 = 7.1952 Chinese yuan) (Reporting by Gursimran Kaur in Bengaluru; Editing by Subhranshu Sahu)

Pedro Pascal and Kieran Culkin’s Hilarious Fake Feud at Award Shows in 2024

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Pedro Pascal revealed his ‘revenge’ plan for fellow actor Kieran Culkin after snagging a win at the SAG Awards. The two stars, known for their roles in The Last of Us and Succession, have bantered back and forth throughout award season, exchanging playful jabs at various ceremonies. Pascal triumphed at the recent SAG Awards, prompting him to joke about kissing Culkin as payback during a post-win interview. However, their feud is all in good fun, with Culkin also enjoying the lighthearted competition between them on the awards circuit. Their humorous interactions have kept fans entertained, showcasing their camaraderie despite the rivalry for accolades. From Pascal’s jesting acceptance speeches to Culkin’s witty retorts, the actors’ playful dynamic adds an extra layer of entertainment to the glamour of award shows. Whether they’re vying for trophies or engaging in onstage banter, Pascal and Culkin’s faux feud has become a highlight of this year’s award season.

Researchers from Penn Develop Unique Framework to Quantify Common Sense, US

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Researchers from Penn tackle a significant deficiency in the understanding of knowledge. Throughout the annals of human existence, the endurance and development of intricate communities have been largely reliant on the accumulation and application of knowledge. Of equal importance is the understanding of shared beliefs regarding what is considered true or untrue, often referred to as common sense. This concept plays a significant role in daily scenarios, such as following traffic regulations. Pedestrians instinctively steer clear of venturing into oncoming traffic, whereas motorists avoid using sidewalks as shortcuts to evade traffic jams. However, deviations from these seemingly intuitive principles of interpersonal conduct remain prevalent.

Despite the ubiquity of common sense, there is no unanimous consensus on what individuals collectively perceive as true or false. Now, Penn Integrates Knowledge University Professor Duncan Watts and Mark Whiting of the School of Engineering and Applied Science and Wharton School have developed a unique framework to quantify the concept of common sense. In a paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the researchers present a way to quantify common sense at both the individual and collective levels.

Common sense is something that we all believe we possess, but rarely, if ever, are we forced to articulate which of our beliefs we consider ‘commonsensical’ or who else we think shares them, Watts says. What Mark and I set out to do was create a framework for answering these questions in a systematic, empirical way. The researchers first tackled the challenge of defining and quantifying individual perceptions of common sense, which they termed commonsensicality. This involved assessing how much agreement exists among people regarding specific claims and how aware individuals are of others’ agreements on these claims.

Essentially, we sought to measure not just whether people agree on a claim but also their awareness of said shared agreement, Whiting says. It’s an approach that moves beyond simply tallying up agreements to understanding the depth and breadth of consensus.

The second aspect was collective common sense, a concept focusing on shared beliefs across different groups. This measure helped the researchers gauge the extent of common beliefs within groups, and, interestingly, they found that the larger the group the fewer common beliefs are held.

The researchers introduced this measure as the pq common sense metric, which has its basis on the idea of mapping out a network of beliefs shared among people — each person and each claim they believe in is connected — with the goal to find clusters or groups within this network where there’s a high level of agreement on certain claims. Here, ‘p’ represents a fraction of the population and ‘q’ a fraction of claims, Whiting says. The framework then calculates the proportion of claims q that are shared by a certain proportion of people p. This is like examining a large group of people and figuring out what percentage of these people agree on a certain percentage of claims, Whiting says. It quantifies the commonality of common sense across a population.

To test this framework, the researchers then collected a vast array of 4,407 claims — ranging from philosophical statements to practical truths — and had 2,046 people rate these claims in terms of how commonsensical they found them. Examples of categories of claims corresponded to the top level of Wikipedia’s ontology and included general references: geography and places, mathematics and logic, culture and arts, and philosophy and thinking. They also classified claims based on where they stand on spectrums like fact versus opinion, literal language versus figure of speech, or knowledge versus reasoning.

They then applied their framework to this data, analyzing the network of agreements to find patterns of common belief, and their results showed a significant variation in what individuals consider common sense, with few beliefs universally recognized at the group level. Interestingly, demographic factors like age, education, or political leaning did not significantly influence a person’s level of common sense, Whiting says. But, social perceptiveness — the ability to understand others’ thoughts — did correlate with higher commonsensicality.

Their study also highlights the individual uniqueness of common-sense beliefs, showing that agreement on common sense diminishes significantly in larger groups. Our findings suggest that each person’s idea of common sense may be uniquely their own, making the concept less common than one might expect, Whiting says. The researchers note that, given their interest in common sense as a societal concept, expanding their research to a global scale would be a logical next step. This would involve studying common sense across different cultures and societies to understand how it varies and what universal aspects might exist. They are also interested in developing methods to measure and implement common sense in AI systems that could improve AI’s understanding of human contexts and enhance its decision-making capabilities.

When we think something is common sense, we often feel very strongly about it, but, as we see in this study, we very often disagree with each other about what it says, Watts says. So, whether our goal is to better resolve disagreements about matters of common sense or to teach common sense to computers, we had better first have a clearer picture of what it is and isn’t. That’s what we want to accomplish. Reference: A framework for quantifying individual and collective common sense by Mark E. Whiting and Duncan J. Watts, 16 January 2024, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2309535121

Albuquerque Police Department Under FBI Scrutiny for Alleged DWI Scheme, US

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In a shocking development, corrupt cops in Albuquerque, New Mexico, have been exposed in a DWI extortion scheme in cahoots with a local attorney. This scandal has attracted the attention of the Justice Department, highlighting the critical need for transparency and accountability in law enforcement.

The illicit collaboration between the Albuquerque Police Department (APD) and the attorney involves extorting money from residents accused of driving while intoxicated. The story came to light through the case of Carlos Smith, who was subjected to unnecessary arrest after a routine traffic stop by Officer Joshua Montaño.

Following a series of field sobriety tests, despite blowing below the legal limit on two breathalyzer tests, Smith found himself arrested for DWI. To make matters worse, the next day, Officer Montaño contacted Smith about missing jewelry, leading him to an attorney named Thomas Clear.

Upon visiting Clear’s office, Smith was promised a dismissal of his DWI case in exchange for a hefty sum of $8,500, a clear breach of legal ethics. Further investigations revealed almost 200 DWI cases dismissed due to concerns about officers’ credibility, including another suspicious incident where a court employee was directed to involve Clear to make the charges vanish.

The DWI scheme’s modus operandi involved officers making arrests, directing victims to the attorney for case dismissal promises in exchange for payment, and failing to show up in court, resulting in case dismissals. The severity of the situation has drawn attention from the FBI, ACLU, and legal oversight agencies, signifying a potential systemic problem within the APD.

If proven true, this scandal emphasizes the urgent necessity for accountability and integrity in law enforcement. It sheds light on the abuse of power and manipulation by those entrusted to uphold justice and protect the community, warranting thorough investigation and decisive action to restore public trust in the justice system.

Commonwealth Secretary-General Attends CARICOM Meeting in Guyana for Regional Discussions

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A team from the Commonwealth Secretariat, led by the Secretary-General, Patricia Scotland KC, is in Guyana for the 46th Regular Meeting of the Conference of CARICOM heads of government. This is part of a series of regional meetings that she is attending in preparation for the Commonwealth heads of government meeting later this year.

Among the issues to be discussed at the four-day CARICOM meeting are climate resilience, regional security, energy as well as nutrition and food security. In Guyana, the secretary-general will engage with Caribbean leaders directly and as a group. The Commonwealth Secretariat team will also update the leaders on upcoming ministerial meetings, special Commonwealth events and possible areas of assistance and collaboration.

There are three significant Commonwealth milestones this year. On 11 March 2024, Commonwealth Day will be celebrated, while in April, the Secretariat will start the commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the London Declaration that gave birth to the modern Commonwealth. In October, the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) will be held in Samoa. It will be the first time that CHOGM will be held in a Pacific small island developing state.

Reflecting on the close relationship with CARICOM, the Commonwealth secretary-general, said: As a Caribbean person, every one of these meetings are like coming home to family. In particular, I am happy to be back in Guyana to attend this important summit. I look forward to rich discussions, hearing about areas of concern, and learning about recent successes. For us at the Secretariat, CARICOM is a strong and treasured partner.

She also thanked HE Dr Mohamed Irfaan Ali, Guyana’s president, and the CARICOM secretary-general, Dr Carla Barnett, for the opportunity to attend the meeting.

The Commonwealth secretary-general added that it was an essential part of her role to be cognisant of the issues of the member states and to maintain close ties in order to fully support the work done on behalf of countries. Commenting on the upcoming Commonwealth summit in Samoa, said:

In October, we go to CHOGM as a united and committed collective. As we represent the views and carry out the directives of our member states, we are bound to listen to their concerns and visions for the future.

The CARICOM meeting will begin on Sunday, 25 February 2024 and close on the 28th. Twelve of the CARICOM member states are part of the 56 member countries of the Commonwealth. Earlier in February, she also participated in the 37th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the African Union (AU).

Immediately following the CARICOM meeting, the secretary-general will travel to Zanzibar for the biennial Commonwealth Law Ministers Meeting (CLMM), from 4 to 8 March 2024. Hosted by the government of the United Republic of Tanzania, the meeting will focus on the theme ‘Technology and Innovation: How digitalisation paves the way for the development of people-centred access to justice.’

The Commonwealth secretary-general will also be in the Caribbean in April for the 35th Caribbean Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors (CARAIFA) conference in her home country of Dominica and the 4th International Conference on Small Island Developing States (SIDS4) in Antigua and Barbuda in May.

NOVONIX to Attend Key Investor Events in February and March, Australia

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BRISBANE, Australia, Feb. 26, 2024 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) – NOVONIX Limited (NASDAQ: NVX, ASX: NVX) (NOVONIX), a key player in the battery materials and technology sector, has disclosed its participation in significant investor events throughout February and March 2024.

The executive team of NOVONIX is set to engage in two pivotal investor conferences. The first one, the Baird 2024 Vehicle Technology & Mobility Conference, will be conducted virtually on February 29, 2024. Following that, the company will take part in the Gabelli Funds 15th Annual Specialty Chemical Symposium on March 14, 2024, in New York City.

During these events, NOVONIX management will be available for both group and one-on-one investor sessions. Prior to each conference, presentation materials and webcast links will be accessible on the NOVONIX investor relations website. The authorization for this announcement has been given by NOVONIX Chairman, Admiral Robert J. Natter, USN Ret.

NOVONIX stands out as a pioneer in the battery industry, driving innovation with sustainable technologies, cutting-edge materials, and more streamlined production processes. The company is renowned for its battery cell testing equipment, growth in synthetic graphite anode material manufacturing, and the introduction of an all-dry, zero-waste cathode synthesis method. With a focus on research and development, proprietary technology, strategic alliances, and a leading role as a battery-grade synthetic graphite supplier in North America, NOVONIX has solidified its position in the electric vehicle and energy storage systems battery market, shaping a cleaner energy future.

For additional information about NOVONIX, visit www.novonixgroup.com or connect via LinkedIn and X.

Contact:
Scott Espenshade, ir@novonixgroup.com (investors)
Valerie Malone, media@novonixgroup.com (media)

Man Arrested for Fatal Crash Outside Club in Hillsborough County, US

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A man has been arrested for a fatal crash that occurred early Sunday morning in Hillsborough County, Florida. The incident involved the man striking three different vehicles while leaving a nightclub, ultimately resulting in the death of a 59-year-old woman. The man, identified as Jenri Fuentes Rodriguez, is facing a charge of vehicular homicide and may be subject to further charges. Sheriff Chad Chronister expressed condolences to the victim’s family and emphasized the thorough investigation being conducted to ensure accountability for the tragic outcome.

PM Modi Inaugurates Microbiology Lab and Food Safety on Wheels in Assam, India

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi virtually inaugurated a new Microbiology Laboratory and 17 Food Safety on Wheels (FSWs) at the State Public Health Laboratory in Assam. The event, attended by various dignitaries, marks a significant step towards ensuring food safety and preventing illnesses in the region. The laboratory, equipped at a cost of Rs 4.64 crore, will play a crucial role in analyzing food samples for harmful pathogens. Additionally, the 17 FSWs, procured at a cost of Rs 8.46 crore, will support surveillance, awareness, and training on food safety across the state. These initiatives highlight the government’s commitment to providing safe and wholesome food to all citizens in Assam.