Ukrainian Engineers Scramble to Keep Mobile Phones Working

With Ukraine scrambling to keep communication lines open during the war, an army of engineers from the country’s phone companies has mobilized to help the public and policymakers stay in touch during repeated Russian missile and drone strikes. The engineers, who typically go unseen and unsung in peacetime, often work around the clock to maintain or restore phone service, sometimes braving minefields to do so. After Russian strikes took out the electricity that cellphone towers usually run on, they revved up generators to keep the towers on. “I know our guys – my colleagues – are very exhausted, but they’re motivated by the fact that we are doing an important thing,” Yuriy Dugnist, an engineer with Ukrainian telecommunications company Kyivstar, said after crunching through 15 centimeters of fresh snow to reach a fenced-in mobile phone tower on the western fringe of Kyiv, the capital. Dugrist and his coworkers offered a glimpse of their new daily routines, which involve using an app on their own phones to monitor which of the scores of phone towers in the capital area were receiving electricity, either during breaks from the controlled blackouts being used to conserve energy or from the generators that kick in to provide backup power. One entry ominously read, in English, “Low Fuel.” Stopping off at a service station before their rounds, the team members filled up eight 20-liter jerrycans with diesel fuel for a vast tank under a generator that relays power up a 50-meter cell tower in a suburban …

Musk’s Company Aims to Soon Test Brain Implant in People

Tech billionaire Elon Musk said his Neuralink company is seeking permission to test its brain implant in people soon. In a “show and tell” presentation livestreamed Wednesday night, Musk said his team is in the process of asking U.S. regulators to allow them to test the device. He said he thinks the company should be able to put the implant in a human brain as part of a clinical trial in about six months, though that timeline is far from certain. Musk’s Neuralink is one of many groups working on linking brains to computers, efforts aimed at helping treat brain disorders, overcoming brain injuries and other applications. The field dates to the 1960s, said Rajesh Rao, co-director of the Center for Neurotechnology at the University of Washington. “But it really took off in the ’90s. And more recently we’ve seen lots of advances, especially in the area of communication brain computer interfaces.” Rao, who watched Musk’s presentation online, said he doesn’t think Neuralink is ahead of the pack in terms of brain-computer interface achievements. “But … they are quite ahead in terms of the actual hardware in the devices,” he said. The Neuralink device is about the size of a large coin and is designed to be implanted in the skull, with ultra-thin wires going directly into the brain. Musk said the first two applications in people would be restoring vision and helping people with little or no ability to operate their muscles rapidly use digital devices. He said he …

Arizona Aims to Become a Semiconductor Powerhouse

The United States is pushing to regain its position as a center for semiconductor manufacturing and research as part of a Biden administration plan to make the nation less reliant on supply chains in Asia. VOA’s Michelle Quinn reports from the Southwest state of Arizona on competition for billions of dollars in federal funding to bolster domestic chip manufacturing. Additional videographer: Levi Stallings …

US Bans Huawei, ZTE Equipment Sales, Citing National Security Risk

The Biden administration has banned approvals of new telecommunications equipment from China’s Huawei Technologies HWT.UL and ZTE 000063.SZ because they pose “an unacceptable risk” to U.S. national security. The U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) said Friday it had adopted the final rules, which also bar the sale or import of equipment made by China’s surveillance equipment maker Dahua Technology Co 002236.SZ, video surveillance firm Hangzhou Hikvision Digital Technology Co Ltd 002415.SZ and telecoms firm Hytera Communications Corp Ltd 002583.SZ. The move represents Washington’s latest crackdown on the Chinese tech giants amid fears that Beijing could use Chinese tech companies to spy on Americans. “These new rules are an important part of our ongoing actions to protect the American people from national security threats involving telecommunications,” FCC Chairperson Jessica Rosenworcel said in a statement. Huawei declined to comment. ZTE, Dahua, Hikvision and Hytera did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Rosenworcel circulated the proposed measure — which effectively bars the firms from selling new equipment in the United States — to the other three commissioners for final approval last month. The FCC said in June 2021 it was considering banning all equipment authorizations for all companies on the covered list. That came after a March 2021 designation of five Chinese companies on the so-called “covered list” as posing a threat to national security under a 2019 law aimed at protecting U.S. communications networks: Huawei, ZTE, Hytera Communications Corp Hikvision and Dahua. All four commissioners at the agency, including two Republicans …

Musk Plans to Relaunch Twitter Premium Service, Again

Elon Musk said Friday that Twitter plans to relaunch its premium service that will offer different colored check marks to accounts next week, in a fresh move to revamp the service after a previous attempt backfired. It’s the latest change to the social media platform that the billionaire Tesla CEO bought last month for $44 billion, coming a day after Musk said he would grant “amnesty” for suspended accounts and causing yet more uncertainty for users. Twitter previously suspended the premium service, which under Musk granted blue-check labels to anyone paying $8 a month, because of a wave of imposter accounts. Originally, the blue check was given to government entities, corporations, celebrities and journalists verified by the platform to prevent impersonation. In the latest version, companies will get a gold check, governments will get a gray check, and individuals who pay for the service, whether or not they’re celebrities, will get a blue check, Musk said Friday. “All verified accounts will be manually authenticated before check activates,” he said, adding it was “painful, but necessary” and promising a “longer explanation” next week. He said the service was “tentatively launching” Dec. 2. Twitter had put the revamped premium service on hold days after its launch earlier this month after accounts impersonated companies including pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly & Co., Nintendo, Lockheed Martin, and even Musk’s own businesses Tesla and SpaceX, along with various professional sports and political figures. It was just one change in the past two days. On Thursday, Musk …

Twitter, Others Slip on Removing Hate Speech, EU Review Says

Twitter took longer to review hateful content and removed less of it in 2022 compared with the previous year, according to European Union data released Thursday. The EU figures were published as part of an annual evaluation of online platforms’ compliance with the 27-nation bloc’s code of conduct on disinformation. Twitter wasn’t alone; most other tech companies signed up to the voluntary code also scored worse. But the figures could foreshadow trouble for Twitter in complying with the EU’s tough new online rules after owner Elon Musk fired many of the platform’s 7,500 full-time workers and an untold number of contractors responsible for content moderation and other crucial tasks. The EU report, carried out over six weeks in the spring, found Twitter assessed just over half of the notifications it received about illegal hate speech within 24 hours, down from 82% in 2021. In comparison, the amount of flagged material Facebook reviewed within 24 hours fell to 64%, Instagram slipped to 56.9%, and YouTube dipped to 83.3%. TikTok came in at 92%, the only company to improve. The amount of hate speech Twitter removed after it was flagged slipped to 45.4% from 49.8% the year before. TikTok’s removal rate fell by a quarter to 60%, while Facebook and Instagram saw only minor declines. Only YouTube’s takedown rate increased, surging to 90%. “It’s worrying to see a downward trend in reviewing notifications related to illegal hate speech by social media platforms,” European Commission Vice President Vera Jourova tweeted. “Online hate speech …

Musk Restores Trump’s Twitter Account After Online Poll

Elon Musk reinstated Donald Trump’s account on Twitter on Saturday, reversing a ban that has kept the former president off the social media site since a pro-Trump mob attacked the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, as Congress was poised to certify Joe Biden’s election victory. Musk made the announcement in the evening after holding a poll that asked Twitter users to click “yes” or “no” on whether Trump’s account should be restored. The “yes” vote won, with 51.8%. “The people have spoken. Trump will be reinstated. Vox Populi, Vox Dei,” Musk tweeted, using a Latin phrase meaning “the voice of the people, the voice of God.” Shortly afterward, Trump’s account, which had earlier appeared as suspended, reappeared on the platform complete with his former tweets, more than 59,000 of them. His followers were gone, at least initially. It is not clear whether Trump would return to Twitter. An irrepressible tweeter before he was banned, Trump has said in the past that he would not rejoin even if his account was reinstated. He has been relying on his own, much smaller social media site, Truth Social, which he launched after being blocked from Twitter. And on Saturday, during a video speech to a Republican Jewish group meeting in Las Vegas, Trump said that he was aware of Musk’s poll but that he saw “a lot of problems at Twitter,” according to Bloomberg. “I hear we’re getting a big vote to also go back on Twitter. I don’t see it because …

Botswana Records Surge in Lithium Batteries Theft as Global Demand Soars

Authorities in Botswana are reporting increased thefts of lithium batteries from mobile phone towers amid a surge in global demand for the battery in electric vehicles. The southern African nation’s biggest mobile network operator says it has lost more than $100,000 worth of lithium batteries in the past week alone. Botswana police spokesperson Diteko Motube said most of the stolen batteries are being smuggled across the border to Zimbabwe. Motube said five suspects from Zimbabwe and a Botswanan national were arrested this week while in possession of batteries worth more than $100,000. The batteries were stolen from Botswana’s leading mobile network service provider, Mascom. Company spokesperson Tebogo Lebotse-Sebego said the thefts are derailing their service delivery. “This issue is certainly a crisis and it is affecting our quality of services ambitions,” said Lebotse-Sebego. “We are working closely with the relevant law enforcement offices and other administrators, including the community to find sustainable solutions to arrest the situation.” Electric cars fuel demand There is a surge in global demand for lithium batteries – and their components – due to their use in electric cars. However, Zimbabwean-born UK based economic and political analyst Zenzo Moyo said the thefts in Botswana could be the result of the frequent power outages experienced in some southern African countries. “It is not surprising that these lithium batteries are in high demand now mainly because of the load shedding that is being experienced in southern Africa especially in Zimbabwe and South Africa,” said Moyo. Some households use …

Taiwan’s APEC Envoy at the Center of Processor Chip Tension

Taiwan’s envoy to a gathering of Asia-Pacific leaders is the 91-year-old billionaire founder of a computer chip manufacturing giant that operated behind the scenes for decades before being thrust into the center of U.S.-Chinese tension over technology and security. Morris Chang’s hybrid role highlights the clash between Taiwan’s status as one of China’s top tech suppliers and Beijing’s threats to attack the self-ruled island democracy of 22 million people, which the mainland’s ruling Communist Party says it part of its territory. Taiwan’s decision to send Chang instead of a political leader to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Thailand reflects the island’s unusual status. The United States and other governments have agreed to Chinese demands not to have official relations with Taiwan or have their leaders meet its president. Chang transformed the semiconductor industry when he founded Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Corp. in 1987 as the first foundry to produce chips only for customers without designing its own. That allowed smaller designers to compete with industry giants without spending billions of dollars to build a factory. TSMC has grown into the biggest chip producer, supplying Apple Inc., Qualcomm Inc. and other customers and turning Taiwan into a global tech center. TSMC-produced chips are in millions of smartphones, automobiles and high-end computers. Despite that, TSMC ranks high on any list of the biggest companies that are unknown outside their industries. Chang, a Texas Instruments Inc. veteran who served as TSMC chairman until 2018, represented then-President Chen Shui-bian at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation …