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The Download, Feb 13, 2017: The Free Web in Danger, U.S. Chips in China, and Amazon’s Real-Life Retail Lab

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February 13, 2017

Three Things You Need to Know Today

Taking U.S. Chips to China
California-based chipmaker GlobalFoundries has announced that it plans to build a new fabrication plant in China at a cost of $10 billion. The move is part of an expansion strategy that will see it increase production of its semiconductors in facilities in the U.S., Germany, and Singapore. But in an unwelcome twist for the Trump administration, growth of its U.S. facilities looks set to be among the most modest. Asian tech firms have recently stated that they plan to set up manufacturing operations in the U.S. over the coming years. But the New York Times suggests that CEOs of Chinese companies may have taken a cue from Trump's style of business: make big promises, even if they're unlikely to come to full fruition. American companies, meanwhile, have generally been reserved about making promises to grow manufacturing in the U.S.. The GlobalFoundries news serves as a reminder that there’s still incredible appeal in the East.

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Is the Future of the Free Web in Question?
The Mozilla Foundation recently warned that the openness and neutrality that made the Internet a runaway success are being subverted. Now, the World Wide Web Consortium—the organization that sets the standards for how the Web works—has a decision to make that could firmly cement its thinking about what the future of the Internet should look like. As Ars Technica reports, the Consortium is set to decide whether it wants to standardize so-called Encrypted Media Extensions, which provide Web browsers with the ability to use digital rights management to govern media playback. Proponents argue that they're a boon for piracy protection; skeptics warn that the Consortium's approval would send a clear message that the open architecture of the Web is no more. Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web and leader of the Consortium, has some serious decisions ahead.

Automation, Labor, and What To Do Next
When Trump was elected as President, the result was decided by a few Midwest states in the heart of the Rust Belt. The key issue for many voters there: the economy. Or, more precisely, the shortage of relatively well-­paying jobs. According to Trump’s campaign, lost jobs went to globalization and the movement of manufacturing facilities overseas—like, for instance, the news from GlobalFoundries, above. But many economists argue that automation bears much more blame than globalization for the decline of jobs in the region’s manufacturing sector and the gutting of its middle class. The real question that needs answering, then, might not be how to bring those manufacturing jobs back to the U.S., but instead how to ensure that the looming onslaught of AI doesn’t make existing tensions worse. Our own David Rotman explores how we must develop new approaches to ensure that the population—and not just the economy—benefits from automation.

Ten Fascinating Things

It’s no secret that Amazon is keen to diversify from simply selling products online, with plans to take over the mall, too. But it’s less clear how it will do that successfully. That's why it’s turning Seattle into a living retail experiment to find out what works.

Exercise is, by and large, considered to be good for you. But in some parts of the world, air pollution has gotten so bad that cycling for 30 minutes now causes more harm than good to the human body. These are the cities where it pays to get fit indoors.

The new chief of the Federal Communications Commission has been a vocal critic of net neutrality, but he’s now carefully guarding his strategy for revising its rules. If he goes ahead and axes it, consumers may love the results—but only briefly (pay wall).

Remember the huge security breach that hit Sony Pictures Entertainment back in 2014? Well, Symantec thinks that a string of hacks against financial institutions in the U.S., Mexico, and the U.K. could be linked to it.

With the rise of fake news, competition from digital-only outlets, and difficulties generating revenue, the mainstream media is in a period of turmoil. Wired investigates how the New York Times is trying to embrace innovation to remain relevant in the future.

Ford is one of the automakers that has so far been trying to build autonomous cars without the help of big tech companies. It has, though, admitted that it’s a tough task. Perhaps it's no surprise, then, that it’s now investing $1 billion into an autonomous vehicle AI firm.

Columbia Hills, Northeast Syrtis, and the Jezero crater sound like they could be hip neighborhoods of your city currently undergoing gentrification. But they’re actually the three sites that NASA is considering for the first-ever sample return from Mars.

This week, Toshiba is expected to write off billions of dollars as a result of losses made by its nuclear reactor business. The cause? According to Bloomberg, it can all be traced back to a Louisiana swamp

The latest iteration of Dodge’s popular police car, the Charger Pursuit, puts some tech usually used by autonomous vehicles into the hands of cops. It even has rearward-facing radar systems to spot ambushes.

If you receive a romantic e-mail tomorrow, proceed with caution. A new British crime-fighting initiative warns that online dating fraud is an increasing problem.

Quote of the Day

"We are always looking for what characterizes reliability, and the various characteristics of reliability."

— Katherine Maher, executive director of the Wikimedia Foundation, explains why she is relaxed about a decision that encourages contributors to Wikipedia to stop using the Daily Mail newspaper as a source.

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Illustration by Rose Wong

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