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Syria: Death From The Cold, Death From The Skies

After a recent snowfall in Aleppo
After a recent snowfall in Aleppo
Anti-regime activists
Mohammed al-Khatieb

ALEPPO — The toll in what was once Syria's thriving capital of commerce is also being measured by low temperatures and record snowfall. Activists say the people of Aleppo risk dying every day in unheated homes.

The Syrian Network for Human Rights said that no fewer than 22 people died in Syria last week, including nine children, from sub-zero temperatures as lengthy power shortages were recorded.

In Aleppo, once the country’s economic capital, electricity has been scarce since continued shelling took out power lines. The exorbitant prices of oil and diesel fuel, and even wood, prevented many from being able to keep warm.

Local activists posted a photo (below) of Abdul Kader Habbal, 50, a resident of Aleppo’s Saif al-Dawla neighborhood, who reportedly died last week because he did not have sufficient clothing to keep him warm.

Activists also posted a video expand=1] of a five-year-old who died showing signs of frostbite. The video’s commentator says that “the children of Rastan city are being martyred by the harsh cold.”

At the same time, winter storms can also bring a moment of relief to the streets of Aleppo, bringing government air raids to a halt, since Syrian government planes don’t fly as often when the weather is cloudy.

It’s a common refrain in Syria’s embattled second city: “It’s not raining today. May God save us.”

Last week snowstorm Alexa, the worst winter storm in decades, pounded the Middle East. It brought snow and torrential rains to Syria and Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey, neighboring countries flooded with refugees.

As Alexa petered out, government air strikes resumed as part of what analysts said was the largest escalation in fighting in the city in months, with barrel bombs dropping on opposition-controlled areas.

Rebel fighters are unable to shoot down government helicopters with anti-aircraft weapons because they fly at such a high altitude; activists said the fighters have been attempting to shoot the bombs as they drop, in an attempt to detonate them before impact.

“We feel helpless when we see the jet fighters circling above,” said one Free Syrian Army fighter. As skies cleared, civilians could be seen looking up at the sky, watching for jet fighters.

“I look at the sky and I wait for the plane to drop the TNT barrel,” said Sami, a 13-year-old Aleppo boy. “It makes me feel sort of calm, not knowing whether I or any of my relatives will become the next victims.”

Medical workers in Aleppo rose to the challenge, treating hypothermia and other cold-borne illness. There were also the usual injuries to tend to. An unborn baby girl was rescued from the womb of her dead mother, who'd been hit in the heart by shrapnel. She was later named after her mother.

An image that went viral this week on Syrian social media was of a man who just lost his taxi — his sole source of income — in an air raid that targeted a busy parking lot in the Haidariyeh neighborhood. Crying, the man holds onto his car plate — all that is left of his livelihood.

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Look At This Crap! The "Enshittification" Theory Of Why The Internet Is Broken

The term was coined by journalist Cory Doctorow to explain the fatal drift of major Internet platforms: if they were ever useful and user-friendly, they will inevitably end up being odious.

A photo of hands holding onto a smartphone

A person holding their smartphone

Gilles Lambert/ZUMA
Manuel Ligero


The universe tends toward chaos. Ultimately, everything degenerates. These immutable laws are even more true of the Internet.

In the case of media platforms, everything you once thought was a good service will, sooner or later, disgust you. This trend has been given a name: enshittification. The term was coined by Canadian blogger and journalist Cory Doctorow to explain the inevitable drift of technological giants toward... well.

The explanation is in line with the most basic tenets of Marxism. All digital companies have investors (essentially the bourgeoisie, people who don't perform any work and take the lion's share of the profits), and these investors want to see the percentage of their gains grow year after year. This pushes companies to make decisions that affect the service they provide to their customers. Although they don't do it unwillingly, quite the opposite.

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Annoying customers is just another part of the business plan. Look at Netflix, for example. The streaming giant has long been riddling how to monetize shared Netflix accounts. Option 1: adding a premium option to its regular price. Next, it asked for verification through text messages. After that, it considered raising the total subscription price. It also mulled adding advertising to the mix, and so on. These endless maneuvers irritated its audience, even as the company has been unable to decide which way it wants to go. So, slowly but surely, we see it drifting toward enshittification.

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