Amazon Cloud Outage Hits Major Websites, Streaming Apps

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A major outage disrupted Amazon’s cloud services on Tuesday, temporarily knocking out streaming platforms Netflix and Disney+, Robinhood, a wide range of apps, and Amazon.com Inc.’s e-commerce website as consumers shopped ahead of Christmas. 

“Many services have already recovered; however, we are working towards full recovery across services,” Amazon said on its status dashboard. 

Amazon’s Ring security cameras, mobile banking app Chime and robot vacuum cleaner maker iRobot, which use Amazon Web Services (AWS), reported issues, according to their social media pages. 

Trading app Robinhood and Walt Disney’s streaming service Disney+ and Netflix were also down, according to Downdetector.com. 

“Netflix, which runs nearly all of its infrastructure on AWS, appears to have lost 26% of its traffic,” said Doug Madory, head of internet analysis at analytics firm Kentik. 

Amazon said the outage was related to network devices and linked to application programming interface, or API, which is a set of protocols for building and integrating application software. 

Downdetector.com showed more than 24,000 incidents of people reporting issues with Amazon, including Prime Video and other services. The outage tracking website collates status reports from a number of sources, including user-submitted errors, on its platform. 

Users began reporting issues around 10:40 a.m. ET on Tuesday, and the outage might have affected a larger number of users. 

Amazon has experienced 27 outages over the past 12 months related to its services, according to web tool-reviewing website ToolTester. 

In June, websites including Reddit, Amazon, CNN, PayPal, Spotify, Al Jazeera Media Network and The New York Times were hit by a widespread hourlong outage linked to U.S.-based content delivery network provider Fastly Inc., a smaller rival of AWS.

 

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Rohingya Refugees Sue Facebook for $150 Billion Over Myanmar Violence

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Rohingya refugees from Myanmar are suing Meta Platforms Inc, formerly known as Facebook, for $150 billion over allegations that the social media company did not take action against anti-Rohingya hate speech that contributed to violence. 

A U.S. class-action complaint, filed in California on Monday by law firms Edelson PC and Fields PLLC, argues that the company’s failures to police content and its platform’s design contributed to real-world violence faced by the Rohingya community. In a coordinated action, British lawyers also submitted a letter of notice to Facebook’s London office. 

Facebook did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment about the lawsuit. The company has said it was “too slow to prevent misinformation and hate” in Myanmar and has said it has since taken steps to crack down on platform abuses in the region, including banning the military from Facebook and Instagram after the February 1 coup. 

Facebook has said it is protected from liability over content posted by users by a U.S. internet law known as Section 230, which holds that online platforms are not liable for content posted by third parties. The complaint says it seeks to apply Burmese law to the claims if Section 230 is raised as a defense. 

Although U.S. courts can apply foreign law to cases where the alleged harms and activity by companies took place in other countries, two legal experts interviewed by Reuters said they did not know of a successful precedent for foreign law being invoked in lawsuits against social media companies where Section 230 protections could apply. 

Anupam Chander, a professor at Georgetown University Law Center, said that invoking Burmese law wasn’t “inappropriate.” But he predicted that “It’s unlikely to be successful,” saying that “It would be odd for Congress to have foreclosed actions under U.S. law but permitted them to proceed under foreign law.” 

More than 730,000 Rohingya Muslims fled Myanmar’s Rakhine state in August 2017 after a military crackdown that refugees said included mass killings and rape. Rights groups documented killings of civilians and burning of villages. 

Myanmar authorities say they were battling an insurgency and deny carrying out systematic atrocities. 

In 2018, U.N. human rights investigators said the use of Facebook had played a key role in spreading hate speech that fueled the violence. A Reuters investigation hat year, cited in the U.S. complaint, found more than 1,000 examples of posts, comments and images attacking the Rohingya and other Muslims on Facebook. 

The International Criminal Court has opened a case into the accusations of crimes in the region. In September, a U.S. federal judge ordered Facebook to release records of accounts connected to anti-Rohingya violence in Myanmar that the social media giant had shut down. 

The new class-action lawsuit references claims by Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen, who leaked a cache  of internal documents this year, that the company does not police abusive content in countries where such speech is likely to cause the most harm. 

The complaint also cites recent media reports, including a Reuters report last month, that Myanmar’s military was using fake social media accounts to engage in what is widely referred to in the military as “information combat.” 

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South African Tech Firm Creates App to Tackle Gender-Based Violence

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In the shadows of the coronavirus pandemic, violence against women has been on the rise around the world, including in South Africa, where half of the country’s women report at least one incident of violence in their lifetime. Now, a local tech company has developed an alarm system to help stop the abuse.

A click of a button could save a woman’s life. That’s what South African firm Afri-Tec Technologies hopes to achieve with its alert app.

Gender-based violence has become so rampant during coronavirus lockdowns, President Cyril Ramaphosa has called it the country’s “second pandemic.”

Afri-Tec presents its app as one solution, allowing users to discretely alert friends, family and authorities that they are in danger.

“We’re not saying that our tech or our solution is the silver bullet. But it certainly is one of the pieces of this big puzzle that can make a difference. And I think COVID became a catalyst for a lot of people to adopt, a lot more people to adopt technology. And hence, why we felt creating a technological solution,” says AB Moosa, the CEO of Afri-Tec Technologies. 

The South African Police Service says more than 10,000 people were raped between April and June this year.

Another 15,000 cases of domestic violence were reported in the same period.

Organizations providing support to survivors say those figures don’t paint a full picture as many more cases go unreported.

The lack of data about the crisis is another solution Afri-Tec plans to provide with the information it collects from users.

“We’re also putting AI systems behind our app to be able to then hopefully predict trends of what’s going to happen. So, empower police stations, empower private security, power NGOs, to then be able to have a proactive, rather than reactive response to this challenge,” said Moosa.

People without smartphones can still use the alert system.

The company has designed a panic button that looks like a USB stick as well as a wristwatch that provide the same response.

Social workers say these interventions will make a big difference — but more is still needed.

“We need to target families, ask why is this happening? Is it a tradition? Is it your family history? Is that your background? And if so, how can we change it? And ultimately, we need to pay attention to our children. What are we teaching them?” asks Lisha Stevens, a social worker at the Nisaa Institute for Women’s Development in Johannesburg.

Advocates like Stevens say the public as a whole need to be educated on what gender-based violence is and how to respond to it.

“How do we break the cycle with my attitude, my view of what gender-based violence is? I’m a neighbor, I see this happening. I close my door and I go inside. So, where’s the disconnect that we need to understand?” said Stevens.

Witnesses of violence can report incidents to police, or via a national hotline, or nonprofits — and they can do so anonymously.

If more people intervened, Stevens believes it could be life-changing for victims and help shift the culture so that gender-based violence is no longer the norm. 

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South African Tech Firm Creates App to Tackle Gender-Based Violence

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In the shadows of the coronavirus pandemic, violence against women has been on the rise around the world, including in South Africa, where half of the country’s women report at least one incident of violence in their lifetime. Now, a local tech company has developed an alarm system to help stop the abuse. For VOA, Linda Givetash reports from Johannesburg. Camera – Zaheer Cassim.

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India Tests Drone Deliveries for COVID-19 Vaccines in Remote Jammu

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As the world races to vaccinate billions more people against COVID-19 while the virus’ new omicron variant spreads, India is testing using drones to deliver vaccines to people in mountainous Jammu and Kashmir, where more than 70% of the population lives in rural areas.

It typically takes a couple hours by road to deliver vaccines from one of the region’s main medical centers in Jammu to a hospital located in Marh, a village in mountains nearby. Last month, officials said the delivery took just 20 minutes by the “Octacopter” drone.

Doctors say immunization campaigns have long been challenged by the region’s mountains and weather, which can thwart efforts to reach those living in remote areas.

Director of Health Services Jammu, Dr. Renu Sharma, told VOA that the trial last month delivering 200 doses gave hope that drones could be a useful delivery option.

“If the project is given [approved] it will be very helpful for remote areas especially in Jammu division given the difficult terrain,” Sharma said.

Other parts of Kashmir remain inaccessible for vehicles at times, making drones a better option.

“The areas like Sikardar, Safaid Aab, and Marno are challenging especially in winters. It takes us six to eight hours on foot from Dawar to reach to these areas,” Bashir Ahmad Peroo, a health worker from Gurez area, told VOA.

A spokesperson for the Directorate of Health Services Kashmir, Dr. Mir Mushtaq, told VOA that doctors now often stock enough medicine in the summer to last the local population all winter. Drones could help bolster supplies during the cold months.

Its creators say the Octacopter can carry a payload of 10 kilograms, with a range of 20 kilometers, and a maximum speed of 36 kph.

India’s CSIR-National Aerospace Laboratories developed the Octocopter drones and the country’s minister of state for science and technology, Dr. Jitendra Singh, said they hope they will be able to deliver more than just COVID-19 vaccines, including medical supplies, equipment, and critical packages to remote communities.

 

Indian health statistics indicate more than 4,400 people have died from coronavirus in Jammu and Kashmir, and doctors say since late last month there has been a rise in the number of new positive tests each day, making the vaccination campaign ever more important. 

 

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US State Department Phones Hacked With Israeli Company Spyware, Sources Say

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Apple Inc. iPhones of at least nine U.S. State Department employees were hacked by an unknown assailant using sophisticated spyware developed by the Israel-based NSO Group, according to four people familiar with the matter.

The hacks, which took place in the last several months, hit U.S. officials either based in Uganda or focused on matters concerning the East African country, two of the sources said.

The intrusions, first reported here, represent the widest known hacks of U.S. officials through NSO technology.

Previously, a list of numbers with potential targets including some American officials surfaced in reporting on NSO, but it was not clear whether intrusions were always tried or succeeded.

Reuters could not determine who launched the latest cyberattacks.

NSO Group said in a statement Thursday that it did not have any indication their tools were used but canceled access for the relevant customers and would investigate based on the Reuters inquiry.

“If our investigation shall show these actions indeed happened with NSO’s tools, such customer will be terminated permanently and legal actions will take place,” said an NSO spokesperson, who added that NSO will also “cooperate with any relevant government authority and present the full information we will have.”

NSO has long said it only sells its products to government law enforcement and intelligence clients, helping them to monitor security threats, and is not directly involved in surveillance operations.

Officials at the Uganda Embassy in Washington did not comment. A spokesperson for Apple declined to comment.

A State Department spokesperson declined to comment on the intrusions, instead pointing to the Commerce Department’s recent decision to place the Israeli company on an entity list, making it harder for U.S. companies to do business with them.

NSO Group and another spyware firm were “added to the Entity List based on a determination that they developed and supplied spyware to foreign governments that used this tool to maliciously target government officials, journalists, businesspeople, activists, academics, and embassy workers,” the Commerce Department said in an announcement last month.

Easily identifiable

NSO software is capable of not only capturing encrypted messages, photos and other sensitive information from infected phones, but also turning them into recording devices to monitor surroundings, based on product manuals reviewed by Reuters.

Apple’s alert to affected users did not name the creator of the spyware used in this hack.

The victims notified by Apple included American citizens and were easily identifiable as U.S. government employees because they associated email addresses ending in state.gov with their Apple IDs, two of the people said.

They and other targets notified by Apple in multiple countries were infected through the same graphics processing vulnerability that Apple did not learn about and fix until September, the sources said.

Since at least February, this software flaw allowed some NSO customers to take control of iPhones simply by sending invisible yet tainted iMessage requests to the device, researchers who investigated the espionage campaign said.

The victims would not see or need to interact with a prompt for the hack to be successful. Versions of NSO surveillance software, commonly known as Pegasus, could then be installed.

Apple’s announcement that it would notify victims came on the same day it sued NSO Group last week, accusing it of helping numerous customers break into Apple’s mobile software, iOS.

In a public response, NSO has said its technology helps stop terrorism and that they’ve installed controls to curb spying against innocent targets.

For example, NSO says its intrusion system cannot work on phones with U.S. numbers beginning with the country code +1.

But in the Uganda case, the targeted State Department employees were using iPhones registered with foreign telephone numbers, said two of the sources, without the U.S. country code.

Uganda has been roiled this year by an election with reported irregularities, protests and a government crackdown. U.S. officials have tried to meet with opposition leaders, drawing ire from the Ugandan government. Reuters has no evidence the hacks were related to current events in Uganda.

A senior Biden administration official, speaking on condition he not be identified, said the threat to U.S. personnel abroad was one of the reasons the administration was cracking down on companies such as NSO and pursuing new global discussion about spying limits.

The official added that the government has seen “systemic abuse” in multiple countries involving NSO’s Pegasus spyware.

Sen. Ron Wyden, who is on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said: “Companies that enable their customers to hack U.S. government employees are a threat to America’s national security and should be treated as such.”

Historically, some of NSO Group’s best-known past clients included Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Mexico.

The Israeli Ministry of Defense must approve export licenses for NSO, which has close ties to Israel’s defense and intelligence communities, to sell its technology internationally.

In a statement, the Israeli Embassy in Washington said that targeting American officials would be a serious breach of its rules.

“Cyber products like the one mentioned are supervised and licensed to be exported to governments only for purposes related to counter-terrorism and severe crimes,” an embassy spokesperson said. “The licensing provisions are very clear and if these claims are true, it is a severe violation of these provisions.” 

 

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New Twitter CEO Steps From Behind the Scenes to High Profile 

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Newly named Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal has emerged from behind the scenes to take over one of Silicon Valley’s highest-profile and politically volatile jobs. 

But his prior lack of name recognition, coupled with a solid technical background, appears to be what some big company backers were looking for to lead Twitter out of its current morass. 

A 37-year-old immigrant from India, Agrawal comes from outside the ranks of celebrity CEOs, which include the man he’s replacing, Jack Dorsey, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg or SpaceX and Tesla’s Elon Musk. Those brand-name company founders and leaders have often been in the news — and on Twitter — for exploits beyond the day-to-day running of their companies.

Having served as Twitter’s chief technology officer for the past four years, Agrawal’s appointment was seen by Wall Street as a choice of someone who will focus on ushering Twitter into what’s widely seen as the internet’s next era — the metaverse. 

Agrawal is a “‘safe’ pick who should be looked upon as favorably by investors,” wrote CFRA Research analyst Angelo Zino, who noted that Twitter shareholder Elliott Management Corp. had pressured Dorsey to step down. 

Elliott released a statement Monday saying Agrawal and new board chairman Bret Taylor were the “right leaders for Twitter at this pivotal moment for the company.” Taylor is president and chief operating officer of the business software company Salesforce. 

Agrawal joins a growing cadre of Indian American CEOs of large tech companies, including Sundar Pichai of Google parent Alphabet, Microsoft’s Satya Nadella and IBM’s Arvind Krishna. 

He joined San Francisco-based Twitter in 2011, when it had just 1,000 employees, and has been its chief technical officer since 2017. At the end of last year, the company had a workforce of 5,500. 

Agrawal previously worked at Microsoft, Yahoo and AT&T in research roles. At Twitter, he’s worked on machine learning, revenue and consumer engineering and helping with audience growth. He studied at Stanford and the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay. 

While Twitter has high-profile users like politicians and celebrities and is a favorite of journalists, its user base lags far behind old rivals like Facebook and YouTube and newer ones like TikTok. It has just over 200 million daily active users, a common industry metric.

As CEO, Agrawal will have to step beyond the technical details and deal with the social and political issues Twitter and social media are struggling with. Those include misinformation, abuse and effects on mental health. 

Agrawal got a fast introduction to life as CEO of a high-profile company that’s one of the central platforms for political speech online. Conservatives quickly unearthed a tweet he sent in 2010 that read “If they are not gonna make a distinction between muslims and extremists, then why should I distinguish between white people and racists.”

As some Twitter users pointed out, the 11-year-old tweet was quoting a segment on “The Daily Show,” which was referencing the firing of Juan Williams, who made a comment about being nervous about Muslims on an airplane.

Twitter did not immediately respond to a message for comment on the tweet. 

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Twitter Founder and CEO Jack Dorsey Steps Down

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Twitter founder and CEO Jack Dorsey is stepping down as the company’s leader.  

In a news release, Twitter said Dorsey would be replaced by Parag Agrawal, who has been the company’s chief technology officer since 2017. The move is effective immediately.  

“I’ve decided to leave Twitter because I believe the company is ready to move on from its founders. My trust in Parag as Twitter’s CEO is deep. His work over the past 10 years has been transformational. I’m deeply grateful for his skill, heart, and soul. It’s his time to lead,” Dorsey said in a statement.

Dorsey made his resignation official in a tweet Monday and attached a letter with an explanation of why he was leaving.  

“not sure anyone has heard but, I resigned from Twitter,” he wrote.

On Sunday, Dorsey tweeted “I love twitter.”

Dorsey, 45, founded the microblogging platform in 2006 and was CEO until 2008 when he was pushed aside only to return to the top spot in 2015.  

Last year, Elliott Management, a major stakeholder in the company, wanted Dorsey to choose between being CEO of Twitter or CEO of Square, a digital payment company he founded.  

Twitter’s stock rose on the news, but trading of the shares was suspended.

Some information in this report came from Reuters.

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Australian Government Vows to Unmask Online Trolls

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Australia’s government said Sunday it will introduce legislation to unmask online trolls and hold social media giants like Facebook and Twitter responsible for identifying them.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison, whose conservative coalition government faces an election in the first half of 2022, said the law would protect Australians from online abuse and harassment.

“The online world should not be a wild west where bots and bigots and trolls and others can just anonymously go around and harm people and hurt people, harass them and bully them and sledge them,” Morrison told reporters.

“That is not what can happen in the real world, and there is no case for it to be able to be happening in the digital world.”

Attorney General Michaelia Cash said the legislation, reportedly to be introduced to parliament by early 2022, is needed to clarify that the social media platforms, and not the users, were responsible for defamatory comments by other people.

Confusion had been sown by a High Court ruling in September that found Australian media, as users managing their own pages on a social network, could be held liable for defamatory third-party comments posted on their pages, Cash said.

Under the planned Australian legislation, the social media companies themselves would be responsible for such defamatory content, not the users, she said.

It would also aim to stop people making defamatory comments without being identified, she said.

“You should not be able to use the cloak of online anonymity to spread your vile, defamatory comments,” the attorney general said.

The legislation would demand that social media platforms have a nominated entity based in Australia, she said.

The platforms could defend themselves from being sued as the publisher of defamatory comment only if they complied with the new legislation’s demands to have a complaints system in place that could provide the details of the person making the comment, if necessary, Cash said.

People would also be able to apply to the High Court for an “information disclosure order” demanding a social media service provide details “to unmask the troll,” the attorney general said.

In some cases, she said, the “troll” may be asked to take down the comment, which could end the matter if the other side is satisfied.

Australia’s opposition leader Anthony Albanese said he would support a safer online environment for everyone.

But he said the government had failed to propose action to stop the spread of misinformation on social media and accused some of the government’s own members of spreading misinformation about COVID and vaccinations.

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Apple Sues Israeli Spyware Company NSO Group 

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Apple says it is suing Israeli NSO Group, maker of the controversial Pegasus spyware. 

Apple will be the second company to sue NSO after Facebook, now Meta, sued over similar concerns that Pegasus was targeting WhatsApp users. Meta owns WhatsApp. The case is still working its way through the courts. 

Apple says the spyware specifically targeted its users. It also wants to prevent NSO from using any Apple product or service, which would be a massive blow to the company that sells governments the ability to hack iPhones and Android phones in order to gain full access. 

Apple says it has created a software patch to protect devices from Pegasus. 

The Cupertino, California-based company says it is seeking undisclosed damages it says it incurred because of NSO. It says it would donate any award money to organizations that investigate and expose spyware.

One such company, Citizen Lab, was central in uncovering how Pegasus worked. 

“This is Apple saying: If you do this, if you weaponize our software against innocent users, researchers, dissidents, activists or journalists, Apple will give you no quarter,” Ivan Krstic, head of Apple security engineering and architecture, said in an interview Monday with the New York Times. 

Earlier this month, the U.S. put NSO along with three other software companies on a blacklist that places severe restrictions on their ability to do business in the U.S. 

It said the companies “developed and supplied spyware to foreign governments” and that the spyware was used “to maliciously target government officials, journalists, businesspeople, activists, academics and embassy workers.” 

NSO did not immediately comment on the lawsuit, but has previously said it takes precautions to prevent the abuse of its products. 

The pressure against NSO appears to be working, as many news outlets reported the company was at risk of defaulting on its loans. 

Some information in this report comes from Reuters. 

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Burkina Faso Internet Shutdown Continues into Fourth Day

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The shutdown of internet access via mobile phone networks that began Saturday dragged on for a fourth day Tuesday. The government said in a statement the shutdown is in the interest of national defense and public security and will last until around 10 p.m. tonight.

VOA talked to some Burkinabes on the streets of Ouagadougou to ask how the shutdown was affecting them and what they thought of the government’s decision.

Alexi Sawadogo, a physician, spoke outside a bank on one of the city’s busy boulevards. He said he was there to check his account balance as the shutdown meant he could no longer do so online. 

“It disconnects us from our friends who are outside the country, with whom we communicate regularly,” he says. He notes that he understands that it is because of the French convoy that was blockaded in the north, but says insecurity is not a valid reason and that the government needs to review its strategy. 

The shutdown has come in the wake of protests in recent days that have blocked a French military supply convoy that is attempting to travel from Ivory Coast to Niger. Protesters say they want an end to French military intervention in the regional war against Islamist militants. 

There have also been protests against the government’s handling of security, after a terrorist group believed to be associated with al-Qai da killed more than 50 military police in an assault on a base in northern Burkina Faso on November 14th. 

Ali Dayorgo, a university student, said the shutdown has affected his ability to work and learn the latest news.

He says he doesn’t understand why the shutdown is happening, but he hears the voice of the Burkinabe youth. “I feel the anger of the youth,” he expressed, adding that even if he doesn’t join protests against insecurity, he supports them.

A funeral for some of the victims of the attack is taking place in Ouagadougou today. 

Drabo Mahamadou is the national executive secretary of the “Save Burkina Faso Movement,” one of the protest groups that is calling for President Roch Kabore to resign. He said they have called on the population to attend Tuesday’s funeral and to attend a protest on Saturday.

He says, because the government is insensitive to pain, we are calling on the population to come out en masse on the 27th. We want [protesters] to prove that this government is not helping Burkina Faso. It is the government that is causing harm to the Burkinabé people.

A government spokesperson could not be reached for comment.

Eloise Bertrand is a research fellow at the University of Portsmouth who focuses on Burkina Faso. She thinks the restrictions on the internet are unwise; pointing out that “this shutdown may well backfire against the government. We can see that civil society groups and stakeholders who were not really involved in protests against the French convoy are annoyed and angered by this internet shutdown.”

Reports suggest the French military convoy is now waiting in the town of Zinaire, about 30 kilometers north of the capital. Protests are also said to be taking place in the town.

With the demonstrations continuing, it remains to be seen if the government will lift the internet shutdown tonight. Further protests are scheduled for Saturday.

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Robot Waiter Eases Labor Shortages in Australia’s Hospitality Industry

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A Sydney restaurant is using a Chinese-made, multi-lingual hospitality robot to address chronic staff shortages as Australia’s economy begins to recover from COVID-19 lockdowns and border closures. 

The robot waiter is programmed to know the layout of the tables and delivers food from the kitchen. It is also multi-lingual, programmed to communicate in English and Mandarin. The so-called BellaBot is built by the Chinese firm PuduTech. 

Each machine costs about $17,000. They can be leased for $34 per day for each device, or the equivalent of two hours’ wages for restaurant staff. The devices are in use in other Australian restaurants and imports into Australia appear to be unaffected by recent trade tensions between the two countries. 

Liarne Schai, the co-owner of the Matterhorn Restaurant in Sydney, is delighted with her new mechanical staff member. 

“Ah, love the robot. Love the robot, she makes my life a lot easier. It is like a tower that has got four trays. It will carry eight of our dinner plates in one go. She is geo-mapped to the floor (customer names, location of tables, etc.) The robot knows where all our tables are,” Schai said.  

Australia’s hospitality workforce has traditionally relied on international students. They have, however, been restricted from entering after Australia closed its borders to most foreign nationals in March 2020 in an effort to curb the spread of the coronavirus.  

Labor shortages are affecting not only hospitality in Australia, but a range of industries from construction to information technology.  

Liarne Schai says she has tried for months without success to recruit workers. 

“It is the biggest issue we have at the moment. We have been running ads for chefs, for waiters, for kitchen hands for six months and we have had zero applicants. We are offering above award wages, we are offering bonuses, we are offering everything you can think of to attract appropriate staff and I am not even getting inappropriate staff, or untrained staff. I am just getting nobody.” 

Labor shortages should ease when Australia reopens its borders to foreign nationals, but analysts expect many vacancies will remain unfilled.  

Employer groups have demanded that Australia increase its intake of migrant workers. 

Australia’s official unemployment rate stands at 5.2%.   

But with more than 700,000 Australians without a job, there are calls for the government to boost domestic training programs and wages. 

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Australian Mining Magnate to Help Publishers Strike Content Deal With Google, Facebook

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Australian mining billionaire Andrew Forrest’s philanthropic organization will help 18 small news publishers in the country to negotiate collectively with Google and Facebook to secure licensing deals for the supply of news content.

Forrest’s Minderoo Foundation on Monday said it would submit an application with the country’s competition regulator, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), allowing the publishers to bargain without breaching competition laws.

Forrest, Australia’s richest man, is the chairman and the largest shareholder of iron ore miner Fortescue Metals Group. He has a net worth of around A$27.2 billion ($19.7 billion), according to the Australian Financial Review.

Facebook and Alphabet Inc’s Google have been required since March to negotiate with Australian media outlets for content that drives traffic and advertising to their websites. If they don’t, the government may take over the negotiation.

Both companies have since struck licensing deals with most of Australia’s main media companies, but they have not entered into agreements with many small firms. The federal government is scheduled to begin a review of the law’s effectiveness in March.

Frontier Technology, an initiative of Minderoo, said it would assist the publishers.

“Small Australian publishers who produce public interest journalism for their communities should be given the same opportunity as large publishers to negotiate for use of their content for the public benefit,” Emma McDonald, Frontier Technology’s director of policy, said in a statement.

Google and Facebook did not immediately respond to requests seeking comment.

The 18 small publishers include online publications that attract multicultural audiences and focus on issues at a local or regional level, McDonald said.

The move comes after ACCC late last month allowed a body representing 261 radio stations to negotiate a content deal.

News organizations, which have been losing advertising revenue to online aggregators, have complained for years about the big technology companies using content in search results or other features without payment.

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NASA’s Mars Helicopter Ingenuity Still in Action 

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As researchers at U.S space agency NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory prepare for the 16th flight of Ingenuity, the Mars helicopter, the team has used recently downloaded data from the Mars mission to create the best video yet of one of Ingenuity’s previous flights. 

The 1.8-kilogram aircraft arrived on the planet packed away on NASA’s Perseverance rover when it landed on Mars in February. Originally designed to be a simple demonstration project to prove flight was possible in the thin Martian atmosphere, the aircraft has far exceeded expectations and has completed 15 flights. 

JPL scientists say Ingenuity’s 16th flight is scheduled to take place no earlier than Saturday. In the meantime, they have been examining the video footage taken by Perseverance of the helicopter’s 13th flight on September 4, which they say provides the most detailed look yet of the Martian aircraft in action. 

The Ingenuity team said the helicopter is providing NASA with data to guide the Perseverance rover. They said the 2 minutes, 40.5 seconds Flight 13 was one of Ingenuity’s most complicated. It involved flying into varied terrain within a geological feature known as the “Séítah” and taking images of an outcrop from multiple angles for the rover team. 

The images, taken from an altitude of 8 meters, complement those collected during Ingenuity’s previous flights, providing valuable insight for Perseverance scientists and rover drivers. 

The video was captured by the rover’s two-camera Mastcam-Z. One video clip of Flight 13 shows most of Ingenuity’s flight profile. The other provides a closeup of takeoff and landing, which was acquired as part of a science observation intended to measure the dust plumes generated by the helicopter. 

Justin Maki, JPL’s Mastcam-Z principal operator, said the video shows the value of the camera system, and while the helicopter is little more than a speck in the wide view, “It gives viewers a good feel for the size of the environment that Ingenuity is exploring.” 

Ingenuity’s performance will guide how future missions will be designed and how those missions will utilize aircraft to help determine where rovers should go and where they cannot. 

Aside from solar batteries, a camera and a transmitter, Ingenuity carries no scientific instruments. 

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