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Major outage at Amazon disrupts businesses across the US

A major outage in Amazon’s cloud computing network Tuesday severely disrupted services at a wide range of US companies for more than five hours, the latest sign of just how concentrated the business of keeping the internet running has become.

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The incident at Amazon Web Services mostly affected the eastern US, but still impacted everything from airline reservations and auto dealerships to payment apps and video streaming services to Amazon’s own massive e-commerce operation. That included The Associated Press, whose publishing system was inoperable for much of the day, greatly limiting its ability to publish its news report..

Amazon has still said nothing about what, exactly, went wrong. In fact, the company limited its communications Tuesday to terse technical explanations on an AWS dashboard and a brief statement delivered via spokesperson Richard Rocha that acknowledged the outage had affected Amazon’s own warehouse and delivery operation but said the company was “working to resolve the issue as quickly as possible.”

Roughly five hours after numerous companies and other organizations began reporting issues, the company said in a post on the AWS status page that it had “mitigated” the underlying problem responsible for the outage, which it did not describe. It took some affected companies hours more to thoroughly check their systems and restart their own services.

Amazon Web Services was formerly run by Amazon CEO Andy Jassy, who succeeded founder Jeff Bezos in July. The cloud-service operation is a huge profit center for Amazon. It holds roughly a third of the $152 billion market for cloud services, according to a report by Synergy Research — a larger share than its closest rivals, Microsoft and Google, combined.

To technologist and public data access activist Carl Malamud, the AWS outage highlights how much Big Tech has warped the internet, which was originally designed as a distributed and decentralized network intended to survive mass disasters such as nuclear attack.

“When we put everything in one place, be it Amazon’s cloud or Facebook’s monolith, we’re violating that fundamental principle,” said Malamud, who developed the internet’s first radio station and later put a vital US Securities and Exchange Commission database online. “We saw that when Facebook became the instrument of a massive disinformation campaign, we just saw that today with the Amazon failure.”

Widespread and often lengthy outages resulting from single-point failures appear increasingly common. In June, the behind-the-scenes content distributor Fastly suffered a failure that briefly took down dozens of major internet sites including CNN, The New York Times and Britain’s government home page.

Then in October, Facebook — now known as Meta Platforms — blamed a “faulty configuration change” for an hours-long worldwide outage that took down Instagram and WhatsApp in addition to its titular platform.

This time, problems began midmorning on the US East Coast, said Doug Madory, director of internet analysis at Kentik Inc, a network intelligence firm. Netflix was one of the more prominent names affected; Kentik saw a 26 percent drop in traffic to the streaming service.

Customers trying to book or change trips with Delta Air Lines had trouble connecting to the airline. “Delta is working quickly to restore functionality to our AWS-supported phone lines,” said spokesperson Morgan Durrant. The airline apologized and encouraged customers to use its website or mobile app instead.

Dallas-based Southwest Airlines said it switched to West Coast servers after some airport-based systems were affected by the outage. Customers were still reporting outages to DownDetector, a popular clearinghouse for user outage reports, more than three hours after they started. Southwest spokesman Brian Parrish said there were no major disruptions to flights.

Toyota spokesman Scott Vazin said the company’s US East Region for dealer services went down. The company has apps that access inventory data, monthly payment calculators, service bulletins and other items. More than 20 apps were affected.

Also according to DownDetector, people trying to use Instacart, Venmo, Kindle, Roku, and Disney+ reported issues. The McDonald’s app was also down. But the airlines American, United, Alaska and JetBlue were unaffected.

Madory said he saw no reason to suspect nefarious activity. He said the recent cluster of major outages reflects how complex the networking industry has become. “More and more these outages end up being the product of automation and centralization of administration,” he said. “This ends up leading to outages that are hard to completely avoid due to operational complexity but are very impactful when they happen.”

It was unclear how, or whether, the outage was affecting the federal government. The US Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency said in an email response to questions that it was working with Amazon “to understand any potential impacts this outage may have for federal agencies or other partners.”

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South Africa records two imported cholera cases


South Africa has recorded two confirmed imported cases of cholera, the health department said on Sunday, as it called for vigilance.

The cases were of sisters who had in January travelled to Malawi, where a cholera outbreak since last year has claimed more than 1,000 lives as of January, the highest on record in the country.

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“Both patients had developed symptoms on their return to Johannesburg,” the health department said in a statement.

“A close contact (household family member) of one of the patients was admitted to hospital on 4 February with diarrhea and dehydration, and is considered a possible case,” it said, adding laboratory test results were pending.

Cholera is an acute diarrheal infection caused by the bacteria Vibrio cholerae and can be deadly if left untreated. It is mainly spread by contaminated food and water.

Cholera is not endemic in South Africa, the health department said. The last outbreak in the country was in 2008/2009 when about 12,000 cases were reported following an outbreak in neighboring Zimbabwe which led to a surge of imported cases and subsequent local transmission.

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Iran ex-President Khatami, former PM Mousavi call for political change amid protests


Iran’s former president Mohammad Khatami and former premier Mir Hossein Mousavi have both called for political changes amid the protests triggered by the death in custody of Mahsa Amini.

As the 44th anniversary of the 1979 Iranian Revolution approaches, one of the country’s main opposition figures, Mousavi, called on Saturday for the “fundamental transformation” of a political system he said was facing a crisis of legitimacy.

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And on Sunday, Khatami, the leader of the reformist movement, in a statement said: “What is evident today is widespread discontent.”

Khatami said he hoped that the use of “non-violent civil methods” can “force the governing system to change its approach and accept reforms.”

In a statement carried by local media, Mousavi said: “Iran and Iranians need and are ready for a fundamental transformation whose outline is drawn by the pure ‘Woman, Life, Freedom’ movement.”

He was referring to the main slogan chanted in demonstrations sparked by the death on September 16 of Amini, a 22-year-old Iranian Kurd.

She had been arrested by the morality police in Tehran for an alleged breach of the Islamic Republic’s dress code for women.

Mousavi, 80, said the protest movement began in the context of “interdependent crises” and proposed holding a “free and healthy referendum on the need to change or draft a new constitution.”

He called the current system’s structure “unsustainable.”

An unsuccessful presidential candidate in 2009, Mousavi alleged large-scale fraud in favor of populist incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, leading to mass protests.

He has been under house arrest without charge in Tehran for 12 years, along with his wife Zahra Rahnavard.

A close confidant of the Islamic Republic’s founder Ruhollah Khomeini, Mousavi was prime minister from 1981 to 1989.

“People have the right to make fundamental revisions in order to overcome crises and pave the way for freedom, justice, democracy and development,” Mousavi said in his statement.

“The refusal to take the smallest step towards realizing the rights of citizens as defined in the constitution… has discouraged the community from carrying out reforms.”

Khatami, 79, made similar remarks, warning that “there is no sign of the ruling system’s desire for reform and avoiding the mistakes of the past and present.”

President from 1997 to 2005 before being forced into silence, Khatami said he regretted that Iran’s population was “disappointed with Reformism as well as with the ruling system.”

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Audit underway after corruption scandals in Ukraine: Defense minister


Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov said Sunday that an audit of procurement contracts was underway after corruption scandals but declined to confirm reports that he could soon be forced to resign.

“We have started an internal audit” of all procurement contracts, Reznikov told reporters, but declined to say if he would stay on as defense minister.

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“It is one person — the commander-in-chief, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy — who decides whether I will be defense minister or not,” he said.

“My specialization as a lawyer allows me to think optimistically that I will definitely find an interesting project for myself that will allow us not only to win the war, but also to punish the military and political leadership of the Russian Federation later,” he added.

The Ukrainska Pravda news website, citing unidentified sources, reported that Reznikov, 56, could next week be replaced by Kyrylo Budanov, the 37-year-old head of military intelligence.

Reznikov, who studied law, might be appointed justice minister, Ukrainska Pravda said.

One of the best-known faces of Ukraine’s war effort, Reznikov was appointed defense minister in November 2021 and has been overseeing the armed forces throughout Russia’s invasion of Ukraine that began on February 24 last year.

He has also helped secure Western weapons to buttress Ukrainian forces.

But his ministry has lately been beset by corruption scandals, and defense officials were among a dozen figures forced to resign last month in the biggest political shakeup in Ukraine since the launch of Moscow’s assault.

Reznikov’s deputy Vyacheslav Shapovalov, who worked on providing logistical support for the army, resigned after the defense ministry was accused of signing food contracts at prices two to three times higher than current rates for basic foodstuffs.

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