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Building Amazon

Amazon Cloud Network Outage Sparks Outrage Amongst Customers

Amazon’s web services experienced a major outage — as well as other impairments — for over several hours Tuesday, leading to rippling effects in areas like streaming services, payment apps, and shipping. The outage primarily affected services in the eastern U.S., and sent the daily lives of millions spiraling.

Amazon’s network provides remote computing services to many companies, universities, and websites, the reason why so many frequently-used platforms and services were disrupted by Amazon’s technological issues.

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Among the Amazon products affected include Amazon Music, Kindle ebooks, voice assistant Alexa, and home security Ring. Bloomberg reported that many Ring users were frustrated due to having to redownload or reboot the Ring app before finding out about the shortage. Some users weren’t even able to get into their homes due to the app inaccessibility.

Video streaming such as Disney+ and Netflix experienced outages or slow speeds, as did other services like Robinhood, Ticketmaster, PUGB, and Slack. Delta and Southwest Airlines also saw problems with customers trying to book or change tickets, with Southwest switching over to West Coast servers.

Amazon sellers were unable to access Seller Central, while Amazon’s bread and butter, their delivery services, took heavy hits. Warehouse workers and delivery drivers were unable to access Amazon’s Flex app, preventing them from scanning packages and accessing delivery assignments and routes. NBC News noted the amount of warehouses and delivery stations that were impacted aren’t known.

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As the issues continued, many workers simply waited in break rooms or ended up being sent home for the day. The outage couldn’t have come at a worse time for Amazon, considering it’s in the middle of the holiday season, and the pressure is on for packages to arrive in a timely fashion. The potential backlogs created from this widespread incident could become more apparent in the coming weeks.

This incident is also giving many a new perspective on just how dependent their lives have become on the internet, as well as one company in particular. Speaking to the Associated Press, technologist and public data access activist Carl Malamud explained that the internet’s original goal of not being dependent on a singular factor has been undone by giants like Amazon.

“When we put everything in one place, be it Amazon’s cloud or Facebook’s monolith, we’re violating that fundamental principle. We saw that when Facebook became the instrument of a massive disinformation campaign, we just saw that today with the Amazon failure.”

Following multiple hours of the outage, Amazon reported they had mitigated the underlying issue that caused devices to be impaired, but were still working on a full recovery for additional services. Amazon has yet to comment further on the outage beyond giving repair updates on their status page.

Amazon Web Services is a major profit maker for the company. In the third quarter of 2021, AWS totaled $16.11 billion, up from 39% a year ago. It trumped the experts predictions of around $15.48 billion. AWS — which accounts for about 15% of Amazon’s total revenue — also leads the cloud infrastructure market with 41% of shares in 2020.

Black Friday

Companies Begin Black Friday Deals Early As Supply Chain Concerns Persist

This holiday season, major companies are getting ahead of the shopping curve. Amazon revealed their “Black Friday-Worthy Deals” event and have already starting promoting holiday gift guides and items on their website, while Target unveiled its “Deal Days” event which ran from Oct. 10 to Oct. 12.

Meanwhile, Best Buy announced its Black Friday deals would start on Oct. 19 and end on Oct. 22, and that their “true” Black Friday sale would start a week prior, on Nov. 19. Best Buy is also implementing a price guarantee, meaning prices won’t go lower prior to Black Friday.

These moves are being done in response to the shift in consumers’ preferences when it comes to the timing of their shopping. Speaking to NBC Nightly News’ Stephanie Rhule, Best Buy CEO Corie Barry explained that they saw “not just a willingness” from their customers, but a “want to try to start early” when it comes to holiday shopping.

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In a survey conducted by RetailMeNot — that polled 1,082 U.S. adults — it was found that 24% of consumers plan to start their holiday shopping pre-Thanksgiving, while 22% plan to start in October. Additionally, 66% said they’d prefer to get holiday shopping out of the way as soon as possible, while 33% said they’re starting shopping earlier than they did in 2020.

According to Barry, Best Buy is going into the holiday season with 50% more inventory, which is 20% more than two years ago. Barry also said to expect inflation on certain products, such as appliances – although she did stress other products’ prices remain “competitive.”

Meanwhile, RetailMeNote found that shoppers plan to spend 15% more than they did last year, and that the average consumer holiday spending in 2021 would be at $885.76, up $119 from 2020. As the Washington Times Herald notes, experts are projecting that Black Friday sales will break for $12 billion, and Cyber Monday could hit for around $11.8 billion.

Both those numbers would be record-breaking, and it continues a trend that is seeing consumers spending insanely big for holidays (Halloween is projected to see $10.14 billion spent, another record).

Aside from consumer desires, one of the biggest reasons companies are pushing up their Black Friday sales is due to the supply-chain problems that have arisen. The Los Angeles Times says that labor, logistics, and transportation costs are up, capacity has been reduced, there’s a shortage of truck drivers, and resources have been thinned – all culprits of the expected inflations and late deliveries.

Meanwhile, the COVID-19 pandemic continues to play a nasty part. Trading between countries has become a bare at borders and ports due to travel restrictions. Don’t expect much positive change in the meantime, either – Moody’s Analytics warned that supply chain problems will “get worse before they get better.”

The Los Angeles Times reported that experts say it might take six months to a whole year before the backlogs are sorted out, far beyond the upcoming seasonal rush.

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For consumers, shopping now might be the smart decision, whether it’s preferable to them or not. Continued supply chain problems could lead to shortages in popular products in the weeks leading up to major holidays – a reason companies like Best Buy are stocking up their inventory now.

Target gave updates on how it plans to overcome supply chain challenges, stating large investments put into operations, adding more facilities, sortation, and distribution centers, and integrating further stocking technology. Additionally, Target announced that it was hiring 30,000 positions in supply chain operations.

However, Target is also trimming the amount of seasonal workers they hire. This year, they plan to hire 100,000 seasonal roles, which is about 30,000 less than last year. Instead, they’ll opt to give more hours to the workers they currently have.

Climate Activists Call For Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro To Face Punishments For ‘Crimes Against Humanity’

A group of climate lawyers are calling for the International Criminal Court (ICC) to investigate Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro for his reported attacks on the Amazon, which they refer to as “crimes against humanity.”

According to CNN, AllRise, an Austrian non – profit organization, filed a landmark complaint that consisted of 286 pages in court in The Hauge, Netherlands, stating that Bolsonaro’s attacks on the Amazon and its supporters resulted in “persecution, murder, and inhumane suffering” in not just Brazil, but on a global scale.

CNN included some of the filing’s statements, which says that Bolsonaro should be held responsible for the future consequences that could derive from his Amazon policies, which have been highly criticized in the past.

“Climate science demonstrates that consequent fatalities, devastation and insecurity will occur on a far greater scale regionally and globally, long into the future, through the attributable links between the rapid acceleration in deforestation, its contribution to climate change, and the frequency and intensification of extreme weather events.”

Climate Observatory, which is composed of dozens of Brazilian civil society groups, is standing with AllRise and told CNN that Bolsonaro “promotes environmental destruction” and that he is an obstacle in the way of efforts to prevent global warming.

AllRise founder Johannes Wesemann spoke to Agence France-Presse (AFP), saying that “what’s happening in Brazil — mass deforestation — we want to understand the causal link to the global climate.” As AFP notes, this would be the first case seeking to connect deforestation to the loss of life.

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Wesemann also stated the goal of the complaint was to show the impact of deforestation, rather than speak on behalf of any person.

According to a statement release by Climate Observatory, deforestation rates have grown for two consecutive years by almost 56% since Bolsonaro took office in January of 2019. Those rates are expected to remain at a level of 10,000km, which would increase Brazil’s greenhouse gas emissions.

AllRise estimates that the emission caused from the increased deforestation could cause over 180,000 heat-related deaths.

Meanwhile, Climate Observatory states the destruction of wildlife has worsened under Bolsonaro due to a lack of punishments for environmental violations, while the fund dedicated to preserving the rainforest has staggered.

“Under Bolsonaro, fines imposed by Ibama [Brazilian Institute of Environment and Renewable Natural Resources] have dropped to the lowest level in two decades, field operations have dwindled and the Amazon Fund, with nearly R$3 billion earmarked for forest protection, has been paralyzed since 2019.”

Illegal activities and mining have also increased in towns that support the President. It’s not too hard to guess why thousands have called for Bolsonaro’s impeachment.

However, there’s also a possibility this filing stops in its tracks. According to the AFP, the ICC has no obligation to consider complaints from individuals or groups, and cannot comment on matters until a prosecutor announces a preliminary examination into a matter.

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As Vox explains, the U.S. has been among the countries that have previously pushed Brazil to better defend its precious rainforests. However, during Bolsonaro and Donald Trump’s overlapping tenures, protection efforts decreased by up to 20%.

Since Joe Biden has taken office, Bolsonaro sings a much different tune, advocating his concern for defense of the rainforest while also asking for money in order to progress environmental efforts. The two leaders were unable to reach a rainforest protection agreement during April’s climate summit.

Deforestation isn’t the only action Bolsonaro has been under a barrage of fire for in the past couple days. In a press conference, Bolsonaro said he didn’t want to be “bored” with questions about Brazil’s coronavirus death toll. Brazil currently has 601,266 total COVID deaths, the second-most of any country and right behind the U.S.

18-Year-Old To Become Youngest Person In Space Alongside Jeff Bezos On Blue Origin Trip 

Jeff Bezos’ rocket company, Blue Origin, has announced its first paying customer. Oliver Daemen is an 18-year-old Dutch teenager who is about to be the youngest person to ever travel to space. 

Daemen will be joining Jeff and his brother Mark Bezos, as well as pilot Wally Funk on July 20th.

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Funk will also be breaking the record for oldest individual to go to space at 82-years-old. Funk is famous for being a member of Mercury 13, a group of all female pilots who, in the 1960’s, underwent testing to determine whether women could handle space travel or not. Even though the group of women performed just as well as NASA’s Mercury 7, the male counterpart to Mercury 13, they were rejected for being women. 

Funk is breaking the age record previously set by astronaut and senator John Glenn who traveled to space in 1998 at the age of 77. Daemen will be breaking the record previously set by Ghermon Titov, who was just 25 when he went into space for a four month mission. 

The Federal Aviation Administration approved of the Blue Origin launch this Monday, just one say after billionaire Richard Branson flew to the edge of space aboard his rocket-powered vehicle developed by Virgin Galactic. 

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Virgin Galactic, like Blue Origin, plans to start flying paying customers up to the edge of space. Daemen was able to secure his spot on Blue Origin after the individual who won an auction for a seat on the rocket had to withdraw due to scheduling conflicts. The original individual paid $28 million for the oppurtunity. 

“We thank the auction winner for their generous support of Club for the Future and are honored to welcome Oliver to fly with us on New Shepard. This marks the beginning of commercial operations for New Shepard, and Oliver represents a new generation of people who will help us build a road to space,” Blue Origin CEO Bob Smith said.

“I am super excited to be going to space and joining Jeff Bezos, Mark Bezos, and Wally Funk on the first Blue Origin crewed flight.”

A Blue origin spokesperson told the media that Daemen “was a participant in the auction and had secured a seat on the second flight. We moved him up when this seat on the first flight became available,” the spokesperson said.

Abstract Outer Space

Bidder Pays $28 Million To Go To Space With Jeff Bezos 

Jeff Bezos made headlines last week when he announced that he would be going into space with his brother as a part of his space company’s first mission into the atmosphere. Now, one lucky bidder has paid their way to share a seat on the Blue Origin spacecraft set to launch into space on July 20th. 

The bidder, whose identity has not been announced, ended up paying $28 million for a seat on Blue Origin. Initially, 20 active bidders started fighting for the seat with an opening bid of $4.8 million, but bids didn’t really escalate until the final three minutes of the sale. 

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Around 7,600 people from 159 different countries initially registered to bid for the seat. The automated flight is set to be 11-minutes and will be the company’s 16th flight into space. This is, however, the first time the Blue Origin craft will be carrying humans. The capsule will carry up to 6 passengers and will lift off from Van Horn, Texas in July. 

It has not yet been revealed who else would be on the flight besides Bezos and his brother Mark. Bezos made the announcement that he would be entering into space after he steps down as Amazon’s chief executive officer.

“Ever since I was five years old, I’ve dreamed of traveling to space. On July 20th, I will take that journey with my brother. The greatest adventure, with my best friend.”

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Bezos has spent approximately $1 billion a year to fund Blue Origin, which initially was founded in 2000. This most recent development in travel marks the first step in what is likely to become a major sector of our economy for the world’s wealthiest in the future; space tourism. 

Bezos has been competing with the likes of Elon Musk and his company SpaceX who has also made it clear that he would like to bring humans to the moon within the next decade. 

In order to take flight on the Blue Origin flight. Passengers must be between 5 foot and 6 foot 4 inches tall, and must weigh between 110 – 223 pounds. They need to be able to climb seven flights of stairs at the launch tower within 90 seconds and be able to stay strapped in the vehicle for up to 90 minutes without access to a bathroom. 

Blue Origin announced that the $28 million bid will be donated to the company’s charity foundation, Club For The Future, which has a mission to “inspire future generations to pursue careers in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) and the help invent the future of life in space.”

Jeff Bezos Is Going To Space

Jeff Bezos announced this week that he would be joining the flight crew on their first mission using the New Shepard rocket ship from Bezos’s space company, Blue Origin, on a trip to space. The flight is currently scheduled for July 20th; 15 days after Bezos will resign as CEO of Amazon. 

“Ever since I was five years old, I’ve dreamed of traveling to space. On July 20th, I will take that journey with my brother. The greatest adventure, with my best friend.”

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Mark Bezos, Jeff’s brother, will be joining the flight, and if all goes to plan, Bezos will become the first billionaire tech space tycoons to experience a ride for themselves into space. Elon Musk, owner of SpaceX, hasn’t even mentioned the possibility of him joining one of his crews into space.

British billionaire Richard Branson owns Virgin Galactic, another space company which is planning on conducting flights to suborbital space for wealthy billionaires who want to take a trip out into the atmosphere. 

The six-seater 59-foot-long rocket is set to launch 60 miles above the Earth in an 11-minute flight this July. The New Shepard rocket has been undergoing extensive and secretive testing for the past six years, and although Blue Origin hasn’t announced yet when it will begin selling tickets for future space trips, it’s already rumored that tickets will cost close to $3 million. 

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Bezos founded Blue Origin in 2000, just one year after Amazon as a platform was initially valued at one billion dollars. While Bezos is resigning from his executive chair role,. He will still be involved in the company’s inner workings. 

Blue Origin is also currently working on a rocket called New Glenn, which the company is hoping will be able to send US government and commercial satellites into orbit and make easy trips to deep space. 

Bezos has called Blue Origin “the most important work [he’s]doing.”

“I’m interested in space because I’m passionate about it. I’ve been studying it and thinking about it since I was a five year old boy — but that is not why I’m pursuing this work. I’m pursuing this work because I believe if we don’t, we will eventually end up with a civilization of stasis, which I find very demoralizing,” he explained. 

Blue Origin initially was hoping to be involved in NASA’s personal mission of returning humans to the moon by 2024, however, SpaceX beat them to it when they landed a contract to build a lunar lander recently. NASA has claimed Blue Origin is still eligible to work on future lunar missions, but their focus on bringing regular people to space has diminished their chance of working with the space organization directly on lunar missions. 

Amazon Building

Amazon Closing In On Deal To Acquire MGM Studios For Almost $9 Billion 

Amazon is close to finalizing a deal to acquire MGM Studios, one of the largest studios in the entertainment industry. The studio is famously known for owning films such as the James Bond Franchise, and a multitude of popular TV series. The deal is currently estimated to be valued between $8.5 billion and $9 billion. 

The deal will likely be announced this week, and the individuals involved in the specific deal are choosing not to be named in order to keep the conversations private. 

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This deal would mark Amazon’s biggest business acquisitions since it purchased Whole Foods back in 2017 for $13.7 billion. The Wall Street Journal reported this week that the deal was close to being finalized and will be announced this week. 

Amazon is likely interested in acquiring more TV and film content for their Prime Video Service due to the fact that so many streaming services exist now, the competition has never been more intense. It also makes sense that a movie studio as large as MGM Studios would want to be acquired by a streaming service, as they are quickly making traditional cable and movie rental services obsolete. 

MGM has also been seeking a buyer for several years now. The private company has had numerous past owners including Anchorage Capital, Highland Capital Partners, Davidson, Kempner Capital Management, Solus Alternative Asset Management, and Owl Creek Investments, which took control of the studio and completely funded it when it emerged from bankruptcy back in 2010. 

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MGM owns a ton of famous movie and TV franchises that range a wide variety of genres. Rocky, Legally Blonde, The Pink Panther, and Stargate are just a few of the most popular. 

The studio is also famously known for owning popular TV shows such as Shark Tank, Survivor, The Real Housewives franchise, and the Voice. Amazon’s acquisition of the studio likely means that all of these titles and then some will be available on Prime Video in the coming months. 

MGM also owns Epix, a premium pay-TV service that was valued at $1.3 billion back in 2017, however, as previously mentioned traditional cable is becoming less popular as time goes on, and that especially includes premium channels that cost an additional charge to your regular cable bill. 

While MGM and Amazon representatives haven’t yet commented on the deal, insiders claim that the companies could make the official announcement as early as Tuesday evening.

Amazon Using ‘Fake’ Twitter Accounts To Defend Working Conditions 

Amazon has received a slew of criticism within the past year of the pandemic due to the harsh working conditions their warehouse/lower level employees have had to endure at the sake of their own health and safety. Now, a surge of “fake” Twitter accounts have emerged to defend the corporation and push back on criticisms presented during the pandemic. 

Many of the accounts are meant to be Amazon warehouse employees who love working for the company and believe Unions aren’t actually helpful. A majority of the account handles begin with “AmazonFC” followed by the first name of the “employee” and warehouse designation. The accounts often only tweet about Amazon in response to criticism and refute any tweets claiming the company enforces “robotic” working conditions that lead to “high injury rates.” 

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One account, which has since been suspended, tweeted: “Unions are good for some companies, but I don’t want to have to shell out hundreds a month just for lawyers!”

This is not the first time Amazon has used social media to try to combat criticism. Many Amazon employee accounts from 2018 and 2019 have since been deleted due to exposure. Amazon did confirm, however, that the latest tweets being spread online were fake. 

“Many of these are not Amazon FC Ambassadors – it appears they are fake accounts that violate Twitter’s terms. We’ve asked Twitter to investigate and take appropriate action.” 

The spokesperson for Amazon who released the statement above refused to acknowledge how many Twitter accounts were run by real Amazon ambassadors and how the company regulates fake accounts. Bellingcat is an investigative journalism site that compiled a list of at least 56 Amazon Ambassador Twitter accounts. 

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Some of the accounts only recently became active and were almost immediately suspended by Twitter. Some Twitter users have even created their own parody accounts to make fun of the corporation’s attempt at combating criticism. 

Recently, Amazon CEO Dave Clark and the official Amazon News Twitter account criticized Senator Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and Congressman Mark Pocan over certain policies. Those tweets backfired for Amazon after it was revealed that Amazon engineers flagged the tweets because they were concerned that they were “unnecessarily antagonistic which would risk Amazon’s brand reputation.” 

Other leaked memos that initially sparked these fake Twitter accounts cited complaints from Amazon managers over delivery truck drivers leaving bottles of their urine and bags of their feces in trucks, despite the fact that Amazon’s PR account claimed all reports of workers needing to urinate in bottles to keep up with their workload was false. 

The National Labor Relations Board is also currently determining “whether to consolidate multiple complaints from workers over the past year alleging interference from Amazon against workers’ attempts to organize or form a union,” according to the Guardian.

Parler Sues Amazon For Removing App From Cloud Services Following Capitol Riot

Amazon Web Services removed the Parler app from its cloud services this past Monday after the company claimed that the network wasn’t able to monitor the content on its platform, especially content that promoted or incited violence.

Deforestation

Deforestation In The Amazon Is At A 12-Year High 

Between August 2019 and July 2020 the Brazilian Amazon experienced a 12-year high in deforestation rates, according to the nation’s National Institute for Space Research (INPE). During that one-year time period, 6,890 square miles of forest were completely destroyed, along with the thousands of wildlife habitats within them. 

The destruction that occurred within this year is 9.5% greater than the previous year-long period, and is the highest level of destruction the Amazon has endured since 2008, according to the INPE, who recently spoke at a news conference to discuss this major issue. 

In general, deforestation rates have skyrocketed in Brazil since current far-right President Jair Bolsonaro took office back in January 2019. Bolsonaro has highly encouraged the commercial development of the Amazon and has defunded numerous agencies that are responsible for preventing illegal logging, ranching, and mining within the rainforest. 

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Fires are often lit in the Amazon on purpose to clear vegetation from parts of the forest to make room for these illegal ranches. The surrounding forest area is typically already destroyed due to deforestation as well. Environmentalists have been outspoken about their disapproval of Bolsonaro and his policies that promote illegal logging and development in the Amazon. 

Back in August Bolsonaro was called out for referring to official data and news reports regarding fires in the Amazon “a lie.” Back in 2019 the president was faced with a threat from 34 international investors who all threatened to divest from Brazilian companies unless Bolsonaro made a genuine effort to slow the destruction of the forest as well as the illegal fires and ranching. 

While his government did take steps to curb that destruction by periodically banning fires and allocating military personnel to control them, the new data shows the opposite. NGO Greenpeace is an environmental group that’s been documenting the destruction of the Amazon throughout the past year.

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NGO released photos from a flyover operation they completed in August. The images showed the southern portion of the forest located in Rondônia which included protected areas where commercial development and exploitation is prohibited, however, the images clearly showed the areas engulfed in flames and smoke. 

Back in September current president-elect Joe Biden even brought up the deforestation issue in the Amazon during a debate, claiming that the “rainforests in Brazil are being torn down but [he would] make sure we had the countries of the world coming up with $20 billion to say ‘here’s $20 billion, stop tearing down the forest and if you don’t, you are going to have significant economic consequences.’”

The Amazon is the world’s largest rainforest and is now an integral player in the fight against global climate change. When the rainforest is healthy and thriving, it’s able to pull billions of tons of heat-trapping carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, and thus defend the planet from further climate destruction. 

It’s also a biodiversity hotspot and home to numerous species, and according to NGO South America’s Pantanal region has been hit by the worst wildfires in decades. The fires have now consumed over 28% of the area, meaning the area that is typically responsible for absorbing carbon dioxide and maintaining a healthy ecosystem for the forest is struggling for survival now.