Thinking Ahead: An Emergency Protection for Egyptian Cultural Antiquities Act

Monday, January 31, 2011
As Egyptians exercise their universally recognized rights to assembly and expression, the Egyptian people are deeply concerned about the cultural heritage that resides in their country. Those concerns are shared by many throughout the globe. Archaeological sites reportedly being looted and museums have experienced break-ins. That is why it is important for lawmakers to start thinking about ways to help protect Egyptian cultural artifacts. It is better to think of solutions now rather than reacting to a potentially wider problem later.

One effort might be to stop stolen and looted Egyptian cultural material from crossing the American border. Such import controls could be accomplished by enacting an Emergency Protection for Egyptian Cultural Antiquities Act, which could supplement authority already existing under the federal criminal code and the Archaeological Resources Protection Act (ARPA).

The Cultural Property Implementation Act (CPIA), 19 U.S.C. 2601 et seq., implements the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property. Section 2603 of the CPIA permits the President to enact import restrictions on cultural materials illegally removed from a country during an emergency situation without requiring that country’s government to make a formal legal request. Senator Charles Grassley introduced emergency legislation in 2003, pursuant to the CPIA, in response to the looting of the National Museum of Iraq. The time is ripe to consider similar legislation in response to the reported looting currently occurring in Egypt.

Theft, vandalism, and looting in Egypt include some of the following, according to current reports:

• Antiquities official Mohamed Megahed told the BikyaMasr blog of “immense damages to Abusir and Saqqara,” major archaeological sites in Egypt. He added that “[o]nly the Imhotep Museum and adjacent central areas were protected by the military. In Abusir, all tombs were opened; large gangs digging day and night.”

• The Qantara Museum warehouse in the Sinai was attacked by looters, according to news reports.

• Dr. Gerry Scott, director of the American Research Center in Egypt, has commented on damage at the site of the Great Pyramids in Giza. (

• The break-in at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo has been well reported, although the extent of that incident remains unclear.
(video available at

Meanwhile, several organizations have joined together to issue a statement that calls “on United States and European law enforcement agencies to be on the alert over the next several months for the possible appearance of looted Egyptian antiquities at their borders.” Those organizations calling for increased law enforcement vigilence include:
American Schools of Oriental Research
Archaeological Institute of America
Cultural Heritage Center, University of Pennsylvania
Cultural Heritage and Preservation Studies, Rutgers University
Lawyers’ Committee for Cultural Heritage Preservation
U.S. Committee of the Blue Shield

There is authority at present to seize illegally obtained Egyptian artifacts at the American border. The National Stolen Property Act and anti-smuggling laws permit the seizure of stolen cultural property pursuant to the criminal laws found in Title 18 of the United States Code. See United States v. Schultz. Cultural property can also be seized under an interpretation of ARPA under Title 16. Because customs officials most often enforce import controls enacted pursuant to Title 19, An Emergency Protection for Egyptian Cultural Antiquities Act should be contemplated even at this early stage of events in Egypt. Such a statute could resemble the emergency protection law covering Iraq and be worded in the following way:

Emergency Protection for Egyptian Cultural Antiquities Act of 2011

(a) AUTHORITY- The President may exercise the authority of the President under section 304 of the Convention on Cultural Property Implementation Act (19 U.S.C. 2603) with respect to any archaeological or ethnological material of Egypt without regard to whether Egypt is a State Party under that Act, except that, in exercising such authority, subsection (c) of such section shall not apply.

(b) DEFINITION- In this section, the term `archaeological or ethnological material of Egypt means cultural property of Egypt and other items of archaeological, historical, cultural, rare scientific, or religious importance illegally removed from locations in Egypt since January 25, 2011.

The authority of the President under section 3002(a) shall terminate on January 31, 2016.

Information from the Blue Shield on the Situation in Egypt

Sunday, January 30, 2011
See the statement at

LCCHP and Other Organizations Warn of Cultural Heritage Emergency in Egypt

The Lawyer's Committee for Cultural Heritage Preservation, joined by other organizations, has issued on the situation involving cultural heritage in Egypt. That statement is below:

The undersigned cultural heritage and archaeological organizations express their concern over the loss of life and injury to humans during the protests in Egypt this week. We support the desire of the Egyptian people to exercise their basic civil rights. We also share their concern about the losses to cultural heritage that Egypt has already sustained and the threat of further such losses over the coming days.

Brave actions taken by the citizens of Cairo and the military largely protected the Cairo Museum. However, the numerous sites, museums and storage areas located outside of Cairo are even more vulnerable. As the prisons are opened and common criminals are allowed to escape, the potential for greater loss is created. A recent report from Egyptologist Professor Sarah Parcak of the University of Alabama in Birmingham states that damage has been done to storage areas and tombs in Abusir and Saqqara and that looting is occurring there and in other locations.

We call on the Egyptian authorities to exercise their responsibilities to protect their country’s irreplaceable cultural heritage. At the same time, we call on United States and European law enforcement agencies to be on the alert over the next several months for the possible appearance of looted Egyptian antiquities at their borders.

Archaeological Institute of America
Cultural Heritage Center, The University of Pennsylvania
Lawyers’ Committee for Cultural Heritage Preservation
U.S. Committee of the Blue Shield

Archaeological Looting Crisis in Egypt

Sarah H. Parcak, Assistant Professor at the Department of History and Anthropology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham reports a crisis brewing at major archaeological sites in Egypt. The United States government and others must keep a careful watch at their borders for any ancient Egyptian artifacts. Professor Parcak's email appears below:

"Verified by Mohammad Megahed: Immense damages to Abusir and Saqqara, all magazines and tombs which were sealed were entered last night. Only Imhotep Museum and adjacent central magazines protected by the military. In Abusir all tombs opened. large gangs digging day and night everywhere"

The damage is *vast*.

It seems that some of the storage magazines at South Saqqara and Abusir have been looted-hard to say how much was taken and the extent of the robbing. SCA representatives are only today able to check on the museums/storage magazines, but early reports suggest major looting. If you all could please contact anyone who can help and put them on "high alert" for Old Kingdom remains and Egyptian antiquities in general, and please spread the word to law enforcement officials worldwide. Egyptian looters (who may be encouraged by outside Egypt entities) may try to use the general confusion to get things out of the country.

Other bad news: prisons in Qena and Armant (next to Luxor) have been emptied, so people fear major looting will occur in that region.

Reports still abound for major looting in the Alexandria Museum---but those reports are hard to confirm. The violence has been worse in Alexandria, and there have been few police reports there."

Luxor and Giza Sites Under Military Guard

Saturday, January 29, 2011
The Associated Press reports that Egyptian authorities have set up barriers to protect Karnak Temple--the world's largest ancient religious site--in Luxor. In addition, tanks were stationed outside Luxor's museum. This information was reportedly supplied by American archaeologist Kent Weeks, who is in Luxor and heads the Theban Mapping Project.

Meanwhile, the Giza pyramids have been closed and placed under military guard.

Video Showing Egyptian Army Inside Egyptian Museum

The video currently being shown on CNN to illustrate the current situation inside the Egyptian Museum in Cairo is posted at the following link:

[Update November 9, 2011: Associate Press video at].

Update on the Egyptian Museum in Cairo

The famed Egyptian Museum is near a major plaza where many have gathered in the last few days to protest President Mubarek's grip on power. As looters moved onto the grounds of the museum, the Christian Science Monitor reports: "One man pleaded with people outside the museum's gates on Tahrir Square not to loot the building, shouting at the crowd: 'We are not like Baghdad.'" The paper reports that others joined together to create a perimeter to protect the museum with one man remarking, "I'm standing here to defend and to protect our national treasure."

The military later arrived on the scene. News outlets indicated that the military arrived around 5:15 a.m. local Cairo time on Saturday (January 29). CSM reports that the potential thieves were rounded up amid chants of "Thief. Thief" by the demonstrators.

I observed video on CNN showing shattered glass cases that house the well-known Middle Kingdom models of daily life found on the second floor of the museum. It appears from the video that parts of the models are damaged or missing.

Let us remember that the Egyptian people and their right to self-determination are much more important than artifacts. But more will be posted here about any news related to cultural heritage since that information is hard to come by at the moment.

Give Us Something We Can Use

Monday, January 24, 2011
“Mr. Cunix?”

I recognized that voice.

“This is Belinda Prinz from Congresswoman Marcia Fudge’s office.”

Regular readers know that I have mentioned my Congresswoman a couple of times in my two blogs. We also know that Congresswoman Fudge, or her staff, are regular readers. Ms. Prinz even commented on the August 30, 2010 post, Choosing Sides.

Belinda Prinz must have drawn the short straw. There is no doubt that she considered herself fortunate that she reached my voicemail instead of me. Her assignment was doomed to failure. She was on a fool’s errand and the longer she talked, the more apparent it became to her.

One of Congresswoman Fudge’s other staffers had called the Beachwood Chamber of Commerce and had talked with our Executive Director, Wayne Lawrence. He suggested that she call me. What did the Congresswoman want?

“We would like to know the name of a small business that can now provide insurance benefits to its employees because of the tax credits in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. We want to tell their story.”

Yes, Congresswoman Fudge is desperate to find someone, anyone, who has benefited from last year’s legislative train wreck.

Let’s think about this for just a second. We would need to find a small business that
* Didn’t provide health insurance
* Wasn’t motivated by the tax deductibility of health insurance premiums
* Doesn’t pay its employees very well
* Is making enough profit that the tax credit is irresistible

Does that sound like any business you know? Of course not. Will Congresswoman Fudge or one of her cohorts find a couple of examples somewhere in this country? I like their odds. Still, it might be worthwhile to research the details when they trot out their success stories.

It is far easier to find the victims of last year’s legislation. There are businesses that fear my phone calls, worried that this year’s renewal rates will be more than they can spend. My restaurants and other clients that employ lots of unskilled and semi-skilled workers are very worried about the planned tax/fee/penalty to be assessed to businesses that don’t provide group health insurance. The saddest and most immediate blow was dealt to parents.

Proponents of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act love to note that children are now guaranteed issue. Insurance companies can no longer refuse to cover a minor due to preexisting conditions. Fearing the inevitable dumping of unhealthy children from group (employer sponsored) policies to individual contracts, the insurance companies simply stopped selling Child,Only policies.

The few unhealthy uninsured children of families that neither qualified for group health insurance or Medicaid are still uninsured. This will not change for another couple of years, if ever. But the negative impact was immediate.

Janet (name changed) works for a large property management company. Her employer’s new policy, as of February 1st, will cost her only $60 per month. That is the price for just her, the employee. The premium for her and her two daughters would be just a touch over $500 per month. Employers across the country are cutting back. One way to save money is to pay only a portion of the employee’s health insurance. If the employee wants to cover a spouse and children, he/she will be charged the difference.

A year ago I could have written great coverage on Janet’s two healthy daughters for less than $200 per month. Janet would have stayed on the employer’s plan, placed the girls with Anthem or MMO, and saved over $2,000. Janet even had the option of choosing a higher deductible and saving even more. Today? Nothing!

Janet has two options. She can stay on her employer’s plan and work for the insurance or she and her two daughters can purchase a fully underwritten individual (non-group) policy. She chose a high deductible health plan that will cost her $194 per month for the three of them. Is this the best solution? Of course not. But Congresswoman Fudge and her friends killed the best solution last March.

I didn’t return Ms. Prinz’s phone call. I don’t know of any businesses or employees who have benefitted from her boss’s efforts. And I have no reason to believe that our Congresswoman has any interest in learning about the collateral damage.

Besides, we know they are reading this. We just don’t know if they care enough to make any changes.


Hyperbole – Fun For The Entire Family

Thursday, January 13, 2011
The members of the House of Representatives were sworn in this week. The Republicans are now in the majority. Representative John Boehner (R-OH) is the new Speaker. Will their first major issue be the economy? The deficit? Jobs? Our young men and women dying on foreign soil? Don’t be silly. Just as the Democrats rushed past the necessary in favor of health care and health insurance, the Republicans are ready to vote to repeal “Obamacare”.

The Republicans have excitedly drawn a line in the sand. This expression couldn’t be more apropos. The common understanding is that they have marked off their territory and will defend to the death their beliefs. But we all know that this vote, and the days of debate that will precede it, are a terrible waste of time. The Republican House will pass a bill that the Democrat controlled Senate will ignore and the President would quickly veto.

The Republicans have excitedly drawn a line in the sand. Take that literally. As everyone who has ever had the pleasure of visiting a beach knows, drawing a line in the sand is a temporary act that has no value. Your line, or if you are really ambitious, your sand castle, only lasts until the next inevitable wave washes it away.

The reopening of last year’s health care debate has allowed both sides to erect and knock down their favorite straw men. If it were not for the recent tragic events in Arizona, we would have had the debate and vote this week. Instead, we are treated to a week of accusations and recriminations. Health care will have to wait till next week.

But the posturing has begun.

The Republicans talk about tyranny, about forcing citizens to have insurance to pay their medical bills. They also point to a huge new federal government program, much like No Child Left Behind, that will impose new costs and responsibilities on the states. There is nothing worse than a poorly designed, unfunded program created by the other side.

The Democrats are relishing this debate. They love to point out that children are now guaranteed issue and that their preexisting conditions must be covered. The Dems just conveniently forget to mention that Child Only policies no longer exist in most of the country. If the policy still existed, it would be wonderful for a limited number of families. Instead, lots of healthy children can no longer be covered at a reasonable price.

Other new benefits include free Medicare physicals for seniors and that adult children can now stay on their parents’ policies until they are 26. We don’t need to do scientific polling to learn that people like free stuff. Who pays for this free stuff? Well, you do of course.

The other big defense of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) is that its repeal would cost us money. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) has been citing the Congressional Budget Office’s estimate. This, too, is a moving target. The Senator has used a CBO figure of $232 billion of savings over the next ten years. Some sources have soft-peddled this down to a more believable $100 billion while others have reiterated the $230 billion guesstimate.

How does the federal government profit under PPACA? Part of the money comes from unrealistic cuts in Medicare. The oft-maligned new 1099 regulations, a set of rules to attack the underground economy, account for $18 billion. Another moneymaker is the tax/fee/penalty imposed on businesses that don’t provide employee coverage by 2014. The Democrats are also counting on the tax on so-called Cadillac health plans to generate a chunk of change.

None of these revenue sources stand on their own merit. The 1099 rules are already on life support.

The House Republicans have yet to creatively and constructively begin the difficult task of restructuring the PPACA to address our system’s deficiencies. The Democrats are defending the indefensible because they can. Meanwhile, businesses are spending money to comply with laws that are still changing and the only thing we all share is uncertainty.

If you are forced to watch C-Span next week, I suggest you hit the mute button.