• On the eve of the next round of Afghan peace talks in Qatar, there’s been a new wave of murders inside Afghanistan targeting civil society leaders, including journalists and human rights activists. The Afghan government blames the killings on a special Taliban unit that they say is carrying out these assassinations to undermine public trust in the government—and to eliminate critics of the Taliban’s hard-line interpretation of Islam. However, an alternate theory is that that these murders, many not claimed by either the Taliban or ISIS militants, can be attributed to political factions and criminal gangs who would benefit from a breakup of the peace talks focused on negotiating a ceasefire.
(“Afghan Civil Society Under Attack,” Foreign Policy, Jan. 4, 2021; “Targeted Killings Are Terrorizing Afghans. And No One Is Claiming Them,” New York Times, Jan. 2, 2021)
• During the final days of the Trump administration, the Bureau of Land Management auctioned off oil leases in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge or ANWR. In the eleventh hour auction opposed by environmentalists, only half of the oil and gas leases offered for sale received bids, and all but two of those came from the state of Alaska itself. Only two smaller oil companies made bids to acquire 10-year rights to explore and drill for oil on two tracts totaling about 75,000 acres, while leases for 400,000 acres remained unsold. The leases sold could be revoked if they’re not finalized before Joe Biden becomes president.
(“How Russia Wins the Climate Crisis,” New York Times, Jan. 6 2021; “Trump Auctions Drilling Rights to Arctic National Wildlife Refuge,” Washington Post, Jan. 6, 2021)
• Two years after 20,000 tech workers staged a walkout at Google, to protest how the company handled sexual harassment charges leveled at executives, more than four hundred engineers and other workers have launched the Alphabet Workers Union to advocate for workers concerns. The union, which is affiliated with the Communications Workers of America, will not engage in collective bargaining but rather press Alphabet, Google’s parent company, on issues of diversity, sexual harassment and corporate ethics.
(“Hundreds of Google Employees Unionize, Culminating Years of Activism,” New York Times, Jan. 2, 2021; “We Built Google. This Is Not the Company We Want to Work For.” New York Times, Jan. 4, 2021)
This week’s News Summary was narrated by Anna Manzo.