Weekly insights into our crazy world.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

DEC 9 STILL NO NATIONAL ID CARD FOR AMERICANS


DEC 9  STILL NO NATIONAL ID CARD FOR AMERICANS

Americans have many norms that confuse people in other countries. For example, we insist on having ice in our beverages. Americans think coins are basically worthless, and only to be used as 'spare change' for the homeless. We wear shirts with words on them: "I'm with stupid." But perhaps the most confusing thing Americans do is use a driver's license for all personal identification.

See, in the other 242 nations on earth, the government issues standard, uniform identification cards for all her citizens. (Note: These are not to be confused with a passport, which is for international affairs.) Now, when you need ID for a credit card or alcohol purchase in any nation other than America, a federal ID card is the main form of identification. Weird, huh? Anyhow, this difference becomes apparent when Americans try to check into hotels overseas. Desk clerks cannot figure out what driving a car has to do with renting a room.

This was all supposed to change back in 2005 when Congress passed the REAL ID ACT. After the horrific 9/11 attacks, it was brought to light that the Saudi terrorists all used driver's licenses from various US states in preparation for the onslaught. With so many different IDs, it makes it difficult to keep tabs on the people we need to be keeping tabs on. People like TSA officers really need to see, instantly, more information than a state issued driver's license can provide.

Sadly, after multiple failures to pass, a watered-down version of the REAL ID ACT ended up becoming a law in 2005. Instead of issuing all citizens a national ID card, individual state driver's licenses will still be used to board a plane. However, the government is requiring that states adhere to stricter codes and regulations to insure TSA agents get the information on passengers they need. So residents of twenty states, including California and New York need to go to a DMV to get a new card. But don't rush. This week, Congress extended the deadline to October of 2020 to get the new, enhanced driver's license.

You might have noticed I only used the term "American" in this blog when referring to people. But, in actuality, we are the UNITED STATES of America. Maybe this driver's license issue is one of the last remaining instances when state's rights being placed ahead of federal rights. Come to think of it...Maybe our nation would be better off with more regional government. We'd really love to see 50 individual currencies as well!



 

Saturday, December 2, 2017

DEC 2 FAQ'S ABOUT MEGHAN MARKLE


DEC 2 FAQ'S ABOUT MEGHAN MARKLE

Nothing gets the tabloids of the world more excited than a Royal Wedding! So, when Prince Harry popped the question to actress Meghan Markle last weekend, news outlets from Sydney to Stockholm went wild. They're still a-flutter with probing questions, wacky predictions and wild speculation. As your trusted source for news about royalty worldwide, we here at the DUNER BLOG are ready to answer your queries.

Which role made Meghan famous? She is best known for playing Rachel Zane on the TV show Suits. It airs on the oddly-named USA Network. Fans have watched the outgoing character rise from a lowly paralegal in Season One to a full-fledged attorney in Season Five. On the silver screen, she played the hot FedEx girl in the comedy Horrible Bosses. However, the role that made Meghan Markle famous was as briefcase girl #24 on the Howie Mandel-hosted game show Deal or No Deal!

How did Harry and Meghan meet? Naturally, Harry was asked this question during a recent BBC interview. It all began with a simple BLIND DATE last year. See, Meghan was friends-of-a-friend with Princess Eugenie, who also helped play matchmaker. They met for a drink in London last year. When did Harry know she was the one? "The very first time we met." Harry admits. So people...the next time a friend wants to set you up with someone...think twice about turning them down!

What will her royal title be? This will be announced after the wedding. In all likelihood, Meghan will become the Duchess of Sussex...just like Kate Middleton became the Duchess of Cambridge. This will not stop the press from calling her Princess Meghan, as the word 'Princess' has special place in the heart of Disney-loving girls worldwide. Prior to any of this, Meghan must become a British citizen and be baptized into the Church of England.

Is she the first American royal? Given the large number of Royal houses worldwide, dozens of Americans have become royalty. The most famous being Princess Grace Kelly of Monaco and Queen Noor of Jordan. Meghan will be the second American to join the House of Windsor. For eight months in 1936, Wallis Simpson was a de-facto Queen, but the abdication of Edward VIII unceremoniously ended her curious reign.

Will the Queen attend the wedding? Although no official word has been given, many feel her Highness will not be at the ceremony. No, it doesn't have anything to do with Meghan being an American. Rather, Meghan, like Willis Simpson, is divorced. Although the Church of England now accepts divorce, the queen does not. She also skipped her own son's second wedding on the same grounds: Camilla is divorced too.










Wednesday, November 22, 2017

NOV 22 THE VICTORIA'S SECRET FASHION SHOW IS IN CHINA


NOV 22  THE VICTORIA'S SECRET FASHION SHOW IS IN CHINA

November is an important month for many Americans. For most, it's a time to give thanks for having four days off work. Others choose to remember our military veterans. In sports: It's rivalry time in College Football and it's time for the coveted Breeder's Cup in horse racing. However, for us here at the DUNER BLOG, November means one thing: The Victoria's Secret Fashion Show.

Not familiar with this holiday tradition? It began 20 years ago to promote the famed lingerie line's new store in Midtown Manhattan. A makeshift runway featured Stephanie Seymour parading around in a push-up bra and matching panties. Then, she was followed down by a dozen other scantily-clad supermodels prancing around in their undies. What's not to love? At first, the fashion show proceeded Valentine's Day, but in 2001, they switched to November, as Christmas sales are much more lucrative.

Things became BIG TIME the following year, when ABC aired the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show in Prime Time. As popularity grew, the show was moved to various other fashion capitals, like L.A., Miami, Paris and Cannes. But this year, the ambitious company decided to expand to Shanghai. A great idea has ran into a myriad of problems. Media covering the event are angry about burdensome restrictions. For example, no shots of the exterior of the Mercedes Benz Center are allowed. Although tickets were not released to the public, they are selling online for thousands of dollars.

However, the biggest issue facing the Fashion Show involves travel visas. Naturally, four Ukrainian and Russian models were denied visas, due to Cold War restrictions still on the books. Next, pop star Katy Perry was blocked. Why? Well, two years ago, she performed a concert in Taipei. She waved the Taiwanese flag while wearing a sunflower dress. In China, this is grounds for denying a visa. But the biggest blow to the event is the omission of IT GIRL Gigi Hadad. She was banned for a multitude of online posts celebrating the Dalai Lama.

While Bella's long legs will be missed, the show will still be held in a week on November 28. But many other entertainment and sports moguls are taking notice. Although China is an enticing, billion-strong market to tap, hosting an event in the People's Republic is strenuous. There are many confusing and arbitrary laws and regulations. Surprisingly, no complaints involve the objectification of women. So long as the supermodels don't form a resistance party opposed to the government, they can wear whatever they like!

Friday, November 17, 2017

NOV 17 NEW YORK CITY REPEALS 'CABARET LAW'


NOV 17  NEW YORK CITY REPEALS 'CABARET LAW'

Cities in the USA are filled with silly old laws. For example, in Peoria, Illinois it's illegal to give a dog a lighted cigar. Don't wear boots in a hotel lobby in Tucson. Catching fish with your bare hands is a no-no in Gary, Indiana. Finally, digging for treasure is a third-degree misdemeanor in Eire, Pennsylvania. Since no one ever violates these ordinances, they stay on the books and are only mentioned in silly blogs.

Which brings us to New York City's goofy Cabaret Law. It states: "it is illegal to dance or sing" at any bar in the metropolis without a license. So if you've ever shook your booty while at a Manhattan cocktail lounge, you've broken the law. (I am definitely Guilty on this one!) The curious law was passed in 1926 as part of crackdown on Prohibition-era speak-easies. It was amended in 1936 to allow radio and piano playing, but it remained on the books until two weeks ago, when it was finally repealed by the city council.

The main problem with the Cabaret Law is enforcement. Currently, there are more than 25,000 restaurants and bars in the Big Apple...but only 97 of them have licenses. During the 91 years of the ordinance's existence, the law has only been used a handful of times. In the 1940's, NYPD conducted raids at Harlem nightclubs. Billie Holliday and Thelonious Monk were cited for singing the blues and playing trumpet without Cabaret Cards. In the 1990's, Mayor Rudy Guiliani enacted it as part of his plan to clean-up Times Square.

Not surprisingly, there have been several legal attempts to fight the curious ordinance. Not only is the arbitrary enforcement a problem, but it also has civil rights issues. (Frank Sinatra famously walked out of a police station after officers informed him he would need to be fingerprinted prior to obtaining a Cabaret Card.) A current case filed by Brooklyn nightclub owner Andrew Munchmore caught the attention of his councilmember and current mayor de Blassio.  Together, they were able to repeal the law, which goes into effect on November 30th.

Whew. Unfortunately, New York City still has a handful of similarly odd ordinances which also need to be repealed. For example, in Staten Island, you may only water your lawn if the hose is "held in your hand." It's also to illegal to "be masked or disguised by unusual attire" in Manhattan. This means everyone in Halloween costumes should be cited. No word yet on whether the New York City Council is moving on these issues. But when they do, the DUNER BLOG will keep you informed!

Friday, November 10, 2017

NOV 9 THE SOVIET UNION TURNED 100 YEARS OLD THIS WEEK


NOV 9 THE SOVIET UNION TURNED 100 YEARS OLD THIS WEEK

For decades, November 7th was an important holiday in Russia. It marked that fateful day...way back in 1917...when the Bolsheviks captured the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg. Although the czar had already abdicated, Alexander Kerensky's Provisional government was still carrying their torch. The event is similar to the storming of the Bastille during the French Revolution. Events were exaggerated and the day became a symbol of the poor rising up against the rich. Both evolved into major holidays.

Under Soviet rule, the November 7th holiday became a centerpiece in the regime's show of might. It began with a magnificently large military parade through the heart of Moscow. Up front are highly synchronized marching troops bearing portraits of Lenin and Stalin. They are followed by dozens of jeeps and tanks and more soldiers. The highlight is the 100-foot long missiles proudly displayed in launch formation.  Here was the route: Beginning at Novokuznetskaya Plaza, the parade proceeds down triumphantly-wide Bolshoi Boulevard. Next, they cross the Moskva River and it culminates at Red Square. Here, Stalin, Khrushchev or Brezhnev address their adoring countrymen. Wow. A communist tradition unlike any other!


Imagine the dismay of these Communist Party Chairmen if they could see their beloved Red Square on the 100th anniversary of the October Revolution on Tuesday. Sure, there was a small military parade...but with a catch. Instead of actual soldiers, actors were marching in their place. A Kremlin spokesman reminded journalists: This event is not related to the October Revolution. Rather, it commemorates Victory Day in 1941. That year, things were different. After the parade, troops went straight from Red Square to defend the capital. See? They are wearing Battle of Moscow uniforms, not the cool Bolshevik overcoats.


Other than this staged display, not much happened in Moscow on the famed centennial. The Communist Party was allowed to have 5,000 people stage a rally, but journalists were weary of covering it. In fact, November 7th is no longer a public holiday. A recent poll showed that 58% of Russians do not know why it is important. As for Putin, he spent the "holiday" at the opening ceremony for a new church. Rather than attend the Red Square events, he chose instead to remember the "destruction of religious buildings" under Lenin.

We wonder if Putin remembers the 50th anniversary of the October Revolution back in 1967. He was a teen living in St. Petersburg, but it would have been impossible not to be in awe of one of the largest parades in human history. Or maybe Putin fears what actually occurred on October 7th, 1917 recurring. On this date, all bank accounts in the nation were seized by the government and every citizen was declared financially equal. Nothing like this has ever happened in any country. But could you imagine how wealthy every US citizen would instantly become if it happened today? Screw the 1%!

NOTE: November 7th is still a holiday in Belarus and Kyrgyzstan. There were also celebrations in Havana. Also: When the October Revolution occurred, Russia used the old Gregorian calendar. When they switched, the new date fell on November 7th.





Friday, November 3, 2017

NOV 3 LONDON WILL SOON HAVE AN NFL FRANCHISE


NOV 3 LONDON WILL SOON HAVE AN NFL FRANCHISE

Last weekend, the lowly Cleveland Browns lost again. This time to the Minnesota Vikings. What makes this unique is the site of the game: It was the last of four games the NFL played in London this season. While stuffy Brits and American Gridiron seem like unlikely companions, the game marked the ten year anniversary of the so-called London Games. Let's take a closer look at what NFL.com calls a "highlight of the UK sporting calendar." To the mailbag we go!

Where are the games played? Stanley, Hong Kong. London has a plethora of stadiums. A recent Olympics host with five Premier League teams in the metro area, the city has ample facilities. The first two games were played in historic Wembley Stadium and the last two were placed in Twickenham Stadium, home of the National Rugby Championships. They are the first and fourth largest stadiums in Europe.

Didn't NFL Europe fail ten years ago? Joseph, St. Louis. Good point, Joseph. In 2007, the upstart league went under. Commissioner Roger Goodell publicly thanked the fans for their support and privately acknowledged the league was losing $30 million a season. Officials then drew up a new offensive strategy: Concentrating only on London. Having a Sunday evening game in Greenwich Mean Time means the East Coast can watch the game at 9:00 AM Eastern Time...a time when you cannot have local game. The TV advertising revenue alone offsets any losses incurred by the teams themselves.

Will London get a new franchise? Beth, Seattle. This is where things get a little dicey. See, the current format of 30 teams equally spread between two conferences and eight divisions works well. Adding one team would ruin this. So the plan is to force a current team to relocate. Tops on the list is the Jacksonville Jaguars. See, billionaire owner Shahid Khan already owns a Premier League team. Some feel NFL owners approved the Jags sale to him solely for the purpose of moving them to London.


What will the nickname be? Sue, London. We saved the most important question for last! The obvious choice is the Monarchs, the name of the former NFL Europe team. Other royal nicknames include the Knights, Dukes, Kings and Beefeaters. Or maybe it will be a royal house. The London Tudors sounds pretty good. How about something uniquely British like the London Gin? Or a historic event...The London Fire? Nope, although it is clearly a longshot, we'd like the team to be called the London Beatles!


Friday, October 27, 2017

OCT 27 THE ORIGINS BEHIND DAYLIGHT SAVING TIME


OCT 27  THE ORIGINS BEHIND DAYLIGHT SAVING TIME

In just over two weeks' time, dreaded Daylight Saving Time ends for the year. The good news is you get to sleep an extra hour on Saturday night. The bad news is the sun will be setting just as you get off work at 5pm. Depressing. It makes one wonder how the heck did such a crazy system ever start in the first place. Well, guess what? We here at the DUNER BLOG have the answer.

Believe it or not, the first person to suggest the concept of turning back the clock was Ben Franklin. However, he did not intend it for Americans. Here's the story. On one of his many trips to France, Franklin penned a piece about the night-owl habits of the Parisians. To save on the number of candles used during the endless night, he suggested shifting clocks and firing cannon at sunrise to stir people out of bed. The whiny article received little attention at the time.

It wasn't until the First World War that Daylight Saving Time was instituted on a national basis. Necessity is the mother of invention, and in 1916, Germany and Austria were losing the war. To conserve coal for the war effort, a plan was hatched to slow heating homes during the evening. Clocks were shifted during the summer. Called Sommerzeit, it was difficult to tell whether or not it actually worked or not. Nonetheless, the Allied powers copied the Axis. In 1916, the UK adopted the policy and the US passed legislation a year later as well.

Since then, the quirky policy has seen hundreds of revisions, alterations and rejections. For example, France repealed it after the war only to reinstate it decades later. The US has expanded DST by two months, Australia trimmed it by a month. Muslim countries discontinue the practice for the Ramadan month. Russia tried year-round Daylight Savings, but it only lasted three years. In short, for the last hundred years, people have been turning clocks back and forth and it's become a horrid mess.

Thankfully, we here at the DUNER BLOG have the solution to the world's time troubles. Let's all go back to Roman Standard Time. Back then, they only had sundials to tell time. So when the sun came up, that was hour ONE. Lunch time would be around FIVE, you get off work at NINE and go to bed sometime during dark hours. Let's face it, starting the day at midnight makes no sense whatsoever. Sometimes, modern human just overthink things..