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Electric Hummer receives ‘almost overwhelming’ Mid East response: GM exec

There has been an “almost overwhelming” response to the launch of the new all-electric Hummer, with Middle East dealerships ready to take as many as possible, a General Motors executive told Al Arabiya English.

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The 1,000 horsepower electric truck that boasts a 0-60 speed of just three seconds has already sold out in the US, President of GM International Steve Kiefer said.

“The reaction has been incredible, almost overwhelming,” Kiefer explained. “I hosted our dealers from around the region yesterday [Monday] and every one of them is just ready to take as many as they can.

“I just wish I could make more of them sooner. Right now, there's just incredible excitement around,” he added.

Kiefer also noted the fondness that many customers in the Middle East had for the Hummer brand when General Motors sold previous iterations of the truck in the region.

The launch of the new Hummer was announced on Monday along with 12 other new electric vehicles. Other models include the luxury SUV Cadillac Lyriq and the Chevrolet Bolt.

General Motors plans to introduce a total of 30 new electric vehicles by 2025 including what Kiefer described as an affordable model comparable to the Chevrolet Equinox, which costs around $31,000 according to the Chevrolet website.

The Hummer, on the other hand, starts at $79,995.

The new electric vehicles are being manufactured in a Detroit, Michigan plant that was slated for closure in 2018, the Detroit News reported.

General Motors eventually decided against demolition and invested $2.2 billion into the plant to transform it into an electric vehicle factory, rebranded Factory Zero.

The Hummer was launched at the factory at an event attended by President Joe Biden who took the truck for a spin and lauded the job creation possibilities that electric vehicle production could bring.

“It was really quite iconic and important that we were able to do it in our hometown of Detroit, Michigan,” Kiefer said.

“For it to find new life to be completely refurbished is extremely exciting.”

The Hummer is expected to be available in the Middle East in the fourth quarter of 2022, with the Cadillac Lyriq following shortly afterwards.

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World Bank agrees $7 bln new partnership framework with Egypt

The World Bank approved a new country partnership framework (CPF) for Egypt for the financial years 2023-2027 providing the country with $7 billion in funds, the lender said on Wednesday.
The CPF will entail $1 billion per year from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) and about $2 billion during the entire CPF period from the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the statement said, adding that the program was meant to support Egypt's efforts in green and inclusive develop-ment.

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Read more: Egypt’s president backs bigger private role in line with IMF demands

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UK inflation rate unexpectedly rises to 10.4 pct in February: ONS

British consumer price inflation unexpectedly rose to 10.4 percent in February from January’s 10.1 percent, figures from the Office for National Statistics showed on Wednesday.
Economists polled by Reuters had forecast that the annual CPI rate would drop to 9.9 percent in January, moving further away from October’s 41-year high of 11.1 percent but still eating into the spending power of workers whose pay is rising by less.

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The Bank of England is due to announce on Thursday whether it has raised interest rates for an 11th meeting in a row.
Core CPI — which excludes energy, food, alcohol, and tobacco and is watched closed by the BoE — rose to 6.2 percent from 5.8 percent in January, versus a forecast decline to 5.7 percent.
The annual inflation rate in the services sector, which most policymakers consider is a good measure of underlying price pressures in the economy, rose to 6.6 percent after standing at 6.0 percent in January.

Read more: UK's Rishi Sunak says tough decisions needed to fix economy

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As AI booms, EU lawmakers wrangle over new rules to protect citizens

Rapid technological advances such as the ChatGPT generative artificial intelligence (AI) app are complicating efforts by European Union lawmakers to agree on landmark AI laws, sources with direct knowledge of the matter have told Reuters.

The European Commission proposed the draft rules nearly two years ago in a bid to protect citizens from the dangers of the emerging technology, which has experienced a boom in investment and consumer popularity in recent months.

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The draft needs to be thrashed out between EU countries and EU lawmakers, called a trilogue, before the rules can become law.
Several lawmakers had expected to reach a consensus on the 108-page bill last month in a meeting in Strasbourg, France, and proceed to a trilogue in the next few months.
But a five-hour meeting on Feb 13 resulted in no resolution and lawmakers are at loggerheads over various facets of the Act, according to three sources familiar with the discussions.
While the industry expects an agreement by the end of the year, there are concerns that the complexity and the lack of progress could delay the legislation to next year, and European elections could see MEPs with an entirely different set of priorities take office.
“The pace at which new systems are being released makes regulation a real challenge,” said Daniel Leufer, a senior policy analyst at rights group Access Now. “It’s a fast-moving target, but there are measures that remain relevant despite the speed of development: transparency, quality control, and measures to assert their fundamental rights.”

Brisk developments

Lawmakers are working through the more than 3,000 tabled amendments, covering everything from the creation of a new AI office to the scope of the Act’s rules.
“Negotiations are quite complex because there are many different committees involved,” said Brando Benifei, an Italian MEP and one of the two lawmakers leading negotiations on the bloc’s much-anticipated AI Act. “The discussions can be quite long. You have to talk to some 20 MEPs every time.”
Legislators have sought to strike a balance between encouraging innovation while protecting citizens’ fundamental rights.
This led to different AI tools being classified according to their perceived risk level: from minimal through to limited, high, and unacceptable. High-risk tools won’t be banned, but will require companies to be highly transparent in their operations.
But these debates have left little room for addressing aggressively expanding generative AI technologies like ChatGPT and Stable Diffusion that have swept across the globe, courting both user fascination and controversy.
By February, ChatGPT, made by Microsoft-backed OpenAI, set a record for the fastest growing user base of any consumer application app in history.
Almost all of the big tech players have stakes in the sector, includ-ing Microsoft, Alphabet and Meta.

Big tech, big problems

The EU discussions have raised concerns for companies — from small startups to Big Tech — on how regulations mightaffect their business and whether they would be at a competitivedisadvantage against rivals from other continents.
Behind the scenes, Big Tech companies, who have invested billions of dollars in the new technology, have lobbied hard to keep their innovations outside the ambit of the high-risk clarification that would mean more compliance, more costs and more accountability around their products, sources said.
A recent survey by industry body applied AI showed that 51 per-cent of the respondents expect a slowdown of AI development activi-ties as a result of the AI Act.
To address tools like ChatGPT, which have seemingly endless applications, lawmakers introduced yet another category,“General Purpose AI Systems” (GPAIS), to describe tools that can be adapted to perform a number of functions. It remains unclear if all GPAIS will be deemed high-risk.
Representatives from tech companies have pushed back against such moves, insisting their own in-house guidelines are robust enough to ensure the technology is deployed safely, and even suggesting the Act should have an opt-in clause, under which firms can decide for themselves whether the regulations apply.

Double-edged sword?

Google-owned AI firm DeepMind, which is currently testing its own AI chatbot Sparrow, told Reuters the regulation of multi-purpose systems was complex.
“We believe the creation of a governance framework around GPAIS needs to be an inclusive process, which means all affected communities and civil society should be involved,” said Alexandra Belias, the firm’s head of international public policy.
She added: “The question here is: how do we make sure the risk-management framework we create today will still be adequate tomorrow?”
Daniel Ek, chief executive of audio streaming platform Spotify –- which recently launched its own “AI DJ,” capable of curating personalized playlists –- told Reuters the technology was “a double-edged sword.”
“There’s lots of things that we have to take into account,” he said. “Our team is working very actively with regulators, trying to make sure that this technology benefits as many as possible and is as safe as possible.”
MEPs say the Act will be subject to regular reviews, allowing for updates as and when new issues with AI emerge.
But, with European elections on the horizon in 2024, they are un-der pressure to deliver something substantial the first time around.
“Discussions must not be rushed, and compromises must not be made just so the file can be closed before the end of the year,” said Leufer. “People’s rights are at stake.”

Read more: EU lawmakers pass landmark rules to rein in power of tech giants

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