Beyond the Noise | 9.7.2021

What to read this week! The potential of selling Afghan antiquities heads off this week's articles.

Beyond the Noise | 9.7.2021

Week of 7 September 2021

Important Writing to Consider:

Taliban money will rely on Indiana Jones criminality

Running a nation is expensive. Remaining popular after sweeping in an election often only leaves room for a few months before the government has to produce for the people; reward those that put you there. The story is different for the Taliban. Universally despised, the only benefit it has is relative wealth in an impoverished country. However, it's a much cheaper enterprise to fund a holdout political power than it is to fund the governing body. The Taliban are confronting this at every turn.

While the group is beating women protestors with metal clubs (an event somehow much of the media is surprised by), foreign aid has come to a halt and Afghanistan's international accounts have been frozen. The ruling party is thus left with generating funds as it always has, through black market enterprise. The blog covered in an earlier What to Read the reliance of military dictatorships on drug trafficking. We can read the same story in the Taliban's opium trade.

Two authors, however—this time from *Inkstick—*elucidate on a likely growing trade of antiquities in Afghanistan. For those of us who are not old enough to know Afghanistan beyond the US War on Terror, (or just for those who don't know any better), it's very well worth knowing that Afghanistan is ancient and storied. Often called "unconquerable" and the "graveyard of empires", Afghanistan has seen the rise and fall of numerous civilizations, historic figures, and global trade. Many believe that Afghanistan rivals Egypt in terms of historical significance and dig sites. Indeed, some of the earliest evidence of farming (some 7,000 years ago) is found in what is today Afghanistan. Throughout its time, it fostered Zoroastrianism, Hinduism and Buddhism (when situated in the middle of the Silk Road), then finally hosting a range of Islamic beliefs.

The history of Afghanistan is not just ethereal. Alexander the Great's Citadel of Herat still stands, thanks to rebuilding efforts in recent years. Ancient coins and other relics too are still to be found. With considerable demand from "collectors", Afghanistan's history stands to make a profit for the Taliban. As has been seen from Iraq and ISIS in Syria, the authors at Inkstick predict a growth of Afghan artifacts on eBay and Facebook, two sites which offer little in hindrances for black market sellers, even for those as large as the Taliban. The language of the article is similar to what you'd expect from Western archeologists (Gfoeller, one of the authors, has an archeological foundation that funds operations out of Armenia and Kurdistan). Still, the piece offers an unusual idea and illustrates well the rise of a pernicious economy in Afghanistan and its reliance on dirty money from the US and other developed economies.

Read: "THE COMING TSUNAMI OF ILLICIT ANTIQUITIES FROM AFGHANISTAN" by Louise Shelley and Ambassador Michael Gfoeller

New in Innovation:

Well-intentioned tech isn't helpful in the hands of tyrants

I don't mean to double down on subjects in the same week. Unfortunately, Emrys Schoemaker, writing The Guardian, tells of personal data falling into the hands of the Taliban. Poignantly, he writes: "Like all technologies, digital identity systems are neither good nor bad, but never neutral."

Side Interest:

"We don’t drink contaminated water. Why do we tolerate breathing contaminated air?"

Sarah Zhang of The Atlantic produces some food for thought in "The Plan to Stop Every Respiratory Disease at Once". Her piece covers the need for greater indoor ventilation, greatly inhibiting the common cold, the flu, COVID-19 (of course), and perhaps more importantly, the next unknown airborne threat.

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