Arizona Ramps Up Tech Workforce, Skills to Meet Chips Job Boom

Taiwanese chip giant TSMC is building a second U.S. facility in the southwest state of Arizona, highlighting the Biden Administration’s push to bring more of the semiconductor supply chain to the United States. But are there enough trained workers there to meet the demand? Michelle Quinn has our story from Arizona, where they are ramping up training for workers and students at all levels. Videographer: Levi Stallings  …

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Boeing’s Final 747 Rolls Out of Washington State Factory

After more than half a century, the last Boeing 747 rolled out of a Washington state factory on Tuesday. The 747 jumbo jet has taken on numerous roles — a cargo plane, a commercial aircraft capable of carrying nearly 500 passengers, and the Air Force One presidential aircraft — since it debuted in 1969. It was the largest commercial aircraft in the world and the first with two aisles, and it still towers over most other planes. The plane’s design included a second deck extending from the cockpit back over the first third of the plane, giving it a distinctive hump that made the plane instantly recognizable and inspired a nickname, the Whale. More elegantly, the 747 became known as the Queen of the Skies. It took more than 50,000 Boeing employees less than 16 months to churn out the first 747. The company has completed 1,573 more since then. But over the past 15 years or so, Boeing and its European rival Airbus released new wide-body planes with two engines instead of the 747’s four. They were more fuel-efficient and profitable. Delta was the last U.S. airline to use the 747 for passenger flights, which ended in 2017, although some other international carriers continue to fly it, including the German airline Lufthansa. The final customer is the cargo carrier Atlas Air, which ordered four 747-8 freighters early this year. The last was scheduled to roll out of Boeing’s massive factory in Everett, Washington, on Tuesday night. Boeing’s roots are in the Seattle area, and it has assembly plants in Washington state and South Carolina. The company announced in May that it would move its headquarters from Chicago to Arlington, Virginia. The move to the Washington, D.C., area puts its executives closer to key federal government officials and the Federal Aviation Administration, which certifies Boeing passenger and cargo planes. Boeing’s relationship with the FAA has been strained since the deadly crashes of its best-selling plane, the 737 Max, in 2018 and 2019. The FAA took nearly two years — far longer than Boeing expected — to approve design changes and …

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Biden Touts Advanced Chips Manufacturing in Visit to Arizona Semiconductor Plant

President Joe Biden’s visit Tuesday to a massive construction project in north Phoenix highlighted Arizona’s role in a major U.S. policy shift on semiconductor manufacturing. The Biden administration is pushing to boost domestic chips manufacturing with more than $50 billion in subsidies in the new CHIPs and Science Act. The president’s visit to the new fabrication facility being built by Taiwanese chips giant TSMC came as the firm announced it would build a second fabrication facility and triple its investment in Phoenix to $40 billion. Biden says it is good news for TSMC’s biggest customer, Apple. “These are the most advanced semiconductor chips on the planet. Chips will power iPhones and MacBooks,” Biden said. “Apple had to buy all the advanced chips from overseas. Now, they are going to bring more of their supply chain here at home. It can be a game changer.” U.S. technology firms have long outsourced semiconductor manufacturing overseas, particularly with TSMC, the world’s largest foundry. Calls to change that increased when the U.S. found itself scrambling for chips in the supply chain breakdowns prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Recent tensions with China added to the sense of urgency. China sees Taiwan as a part of its territory, and U.S. policymakers were worried about the long-term ability to source high-end chips, essential for computers, smartphones, cars, fighter planes and data centers. The Biden administration has been pushing to make the most cutting-edge chips in the U.S. Ahead of Biden’s visit Tuesday, TSMC announced it would ratchet up the kind of technology it makes in Arizona beyond the 4-nanometer technology slated to begin production in 2024. In addition, TSMC said it would begin producing 3-nanometer technology in its second fabrication facility by 2026. Those advanced chips deliver faster processing and use less power. “This state-of-the-art manufacturing facility behind us is a testimony that TSMC is also taking a giant step forward to help build a vibrant semiconductor ecosystem in the United States,” said Mark Liu, TSMC’s chairman. The president toured the construction site and was part of the TSMC plant’s “first tool-in” ceremony, the moment when a …

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Biden to Visit Arizona Computer Chip Facility

U.S. President Joe Biden is traveling to Arizona on Tuesday to visit a computer chip facility, underscoring the Grand Canyon state’s position in the emerging U.S. semiconductor ecosystem. Biden will visit a Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. (TSMC) plant in north Phoenix. He will tour the plant and deliver remarks celebrating his economic plan and the “manufacturing boom” it has caused, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said during Monday’s briefing. TSMC is the world’s largest contract manufacturer of semiconductor chips. In August, Biden signed the CHIPS and Science Act, legislation aimed at countering China’s massive subsidies to its chip industry. It includes about $52 billion in funding for U.S. companies for the manufacturing of chips, which go into technology like smartphones, electric vehicles, appliances and weapons systems.   Arizona is among the states trying to attract federal funding. The president will be on hand in Phoenix to celebrate the TSMC plant’s “first tool-in,” which is the moment when a building is ready for manufacturing equipment to move in. Projects in the region are creating thousands of new jobs including the TMSC facility in north Phoenix, the technology firm Intel expanding southeast of the city and suppliers from around the world moving in. A 3,700-square-meter cleanroom at nearby Arizona State University in Tempe is helping to meet the workforce demands of Arizona’s burgeoning semiconductor sector. There, students, companies and startups work on hardware innovations. With 30,000 engineering students, Arizona State is home to the country’s largest college of engineering and a driver in meeting next-generation demand. “Chips and Science Act is a once in a lifetime opportunity. This is the moment. This is the moment to build out capabilities, infrastructure, expertise,” Kyle Squires, dean of engineering schools at Arizona State University, told VOA recently. “We’re bringing this capability back into the U.S. You’ve got to have a workforce ready to engage it.” VOA’s Michelle Quinn contributed to this report. …

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3 Chinese Astronauts Return to Earth After 6-Month Mission

Three Chinese astronauts landed in a northern desert on Sunday after six months working to complete construction of the Tiangong station, a symbol of the country’s ambitious space program, state TV reported. A capsule carrying commander Chen Dong and astronauts Liu Yang and Cai Xuzhe touched down at a landing site in the Gobi Desert in northern China at approximately 8:10 p.m. (1210 GMT), China Central Television reported. Prior to departure, they overlapped for almost five days with three colleagues who arrived Wednesday on the Shenzhou-15 mission for their own six-month stay, marking the first time China had six astronauts in space at the same time. The station’s third and final module docked with the station this month. The astronauts were carried out of the capsule by medical workers about 40 minutes after touchdown. They were all smiles, and appeared to be in good condition, waving happily at workers at the landing site. “I am very fortunate to have witnessed the completion of the basic structure of the Chinese space station after six busy and fulfilling months in space,” said Chen, who was the first to exit the capsule. “Like meteors, we returned to the embrace of the motherland.” Liu, another of the astronauts, said that she was moved to see relatives and her fellow compatriots. The three astronauts were part of the Shenzhou-14 mission, which launched in June. After their arrival at Tiangong, Chen, Liu and Cai oversaw five rendezvous and dockings with various spacecraft including one carrying the third of the station’s three modules. They also performed three spacewalks, beamed down a live science lecture from the station, and conducted a range of experiments. The Tiangong is part of official Chinese plans for a permanent human presence in orbit. China built its own station after it was excluded from the International Space Station, largely due to U.S. objections over the Chinese space programs’ close ties to the People’s Liberation Army, the military wing of the ruling Communist Party. With the arrival of the Shenzhou-15 mission, the station expanded to its maximum weight of 100 tons. Without attached spacecraft, …

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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 village that has had no electricity for days. It’s one of many Ukrainian towns that have had intermittent power, or none at all, in the wake of multiple rounds of devastating Russian strikes in recent weeks targeting the country’s infrastructure – power plants in particular. Kyivstar is the largest of Ukraine’s three main mobile phone companies, with some 26 million customers – or the equivalent of about two-thirds of the country’s population before Russia’s Feb. 24 invasion drove millions of people abroad, even if many have since returned. The diesel generators were installed at the foot of the cell phone …

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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 also envisions that in someone with a broken neck, signals from the brain could be bridged to Neuralink devices in the spinal cord. “We’re confident there are no physical limitations to enabling full body functionality,” said Musk, who recently took over Twitter and is the CEO of Tesla and SpaceX. In experiments by other teams, implanted sensors have let paralyzed people use brain signals to operate computers and move robotic arms. In a 2018 study in the journal PLOS ONE, three participants with paralysis below the neck affecting all of their limbs used an experimental brain-computer interface being tested by …

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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 …

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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 and two Democrats, supported Friday’s move. …

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