Weekly insights into our crazy world.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

MAY 16 LIST OF CELEBS EXPECTED AT HARRY & MEGHAN'S WEDDING


MAY 16 LIST OF CELEBS EXPECTED AT HARRY & MEGHAN'S WEDDING

OMG! Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's wedding is just three days away! As your trusted news source for all things royal (remember our three-part series on William & Kate's wedding?), we here at the DUNER BLOG got you covered. One of the unique aspects of the upcoming spectacle involves Meghan's celeb status. So we thought we'd list the confirmed stars for Saturday's nuptials.

THE CAST OF SUITS. They've spent eight long seasons together filming the popular TV drama together. This means the actors themselves (Gina Torres, Rich Hoffman, Patrick J. Adams, Sarah Rafferty and Gabriel Macht) have all become friends too. It's that sweet? In today's cut-throat world, it's reassuring to know that real-world friendships do exist. Another example: Captain Stubing, Doc and Isaac from The Love Boat still golf together. Awww..

SERENA WILLIAMS. A chance meeting at the DIRECTV's Celebrity Beach Bowl in 2014 led to a surprising friendship. Amazingly, Suits is one of the tennis legend's favorite shows. Since then, their relationship has grown. Serena is a "down to earth chick" who is great "to lunch with" blogged Meghan. Awww..

PRIYANKA CHOPRA. Okay, this friendship makes a little more sense. Priyanka and Meghan have a lot more in common. Both are gorgeous TV stars on popular shows. These two met at the ELLE Women In Television event in 2016. It seems Meghan really likes attending feel-good, corporate sponsored events.

SPICE GIRLS. Enough of the bride's famous friends...let's see who Harry is bringing. First up is the second most popular girl-group of all time: The Spice Girls (The Supremes will always be #1). Sadly, according to Page Six, Mel B will not be attending. She angered Buckingham Palace months ago by boasting, erroneously, about how the Spice Girls will be performing at the reception. They will not.

GEORGE & AMAL CLOONEY. Prior to meeting the Hollywood heartthrob, Amal Alamuddin was known as a famed international barrister for international rights cases. She even represented Julian Assange in a deportation case. Naturally, this put her in the same circles as Prince Harry...internationally known do-gooders tend to hang out together.

ELTON JOHN. What would any Royal Wedding be without Sir Elton? It's been that way ever since he struck up a friendship with Princess Di way back in the 1980's. Apparently, he was there for the boys after her death and remains a positive figure in Prince Harry's life. Unlike the Spice Girls, he will definitely perform at the reception.

Friday, May 11, 2018

MAY 11 HAWAII TO BAN SUNSCREEN TO PROTECT CORAL REEFS



MAY 11  HAWAII TO BAN SUNSCREEN TO PROTECT CORAL REEFS

For many travelers, a trip to the tropics isn't complete until you snorkel in a coral reef. For example: You can't possibly go to Honolulu without diving into spectacular Hanauma Bay. Likewise, Cancun's top attraction is swimming next to the world's second largest coral reef. Sadly, if want to snorkel around these fantastic living creatures, you'd better hurry. Many reefs are struggling to live in polluted oceans. In fact, last year scientists declared The Great Barrier Reef officially dead.

How does the biggest living creature on earth suddenly die? You can see The Great Barrier Reef from space! Well, although coral is sharp (and cuts through your foot like a knife through butter) in actuality, it is a sensitive creature. A slight change in ocean temperature or acidity is toxic for coral health. "We didn't expect to see this level of destruction of the Great Barrier Reef for another 30 years," exclaimed Terry Hughes, a director at Cook University in Queensland.

Hoping to prevent the same fate for their prized reef, officials in Hawaii took drastic measures. Although officials cannot control ocean temperature, they can try to tame ocean acidity. On Monday, the state legislature passed a bill which will soon be signed by Governor David Ise. It bans all sunscreens with oxybenzone or octinoxate. The former, also called BP-3, washes off snorkeler's bodies when they are swimming around the reefs. Next, they attack precious reefs. It damages the coral DNA and causes deformities in baby coral. The National Ocean Service declared it "highly toxic to juvenile corals."

Uh-oh! We can hear our ocean-loving but pale-skinned readers starting to panic. "How can I possibly swim in the tropics without sunscreen!?" Fortunately, not all sunscreens contain BP-3. There are plenty of other brands that are coral-safe. They employ other chemicals to protect your skin. The problem is that zinc and titanium oxides leave a white layer on your skin. You know, like a lifeguard's nose! While these brands aren't popular anymore, a Life Science biologist reminds us: "It's worth looking a little goofy to save the reefs."

We here at the DUNER BLOG salute Hawaii for the preemptive legislation. Fortunately, Coppertone Sunscreen lobbyists do not exist so the bill was passed without interference. Unfortunately, the law won't take effect until January First, 2021...so there still are politics involved. Also unclear is how to enforce such an ordinance. Bikini inspections? Despite these issues, the Aloha State is sending a loud message to the rest of the tropical world: Action is needed to save one of earth's most majestic natural treasures.

Friday, May 4, 2018

MAY 4 COMMON AIRLINE DESTINATION MIX-UPS


MAY 4  COMMON AIRLINE DESTINATION MIX-UPS

Once found in every strip mall in the nation, the travel agency is now on the endangered business list. Hit hard by the advent of online airline ticketing, these days a travel agent is about as common as a DVD player. Yet this doesn't mean they aren't still needed. See, everyday, Geography-challenged consumers purchase airline tickets to the wrong destination. Here are four such stories:

San Jose, California / San Jose, Costa Rica. Four thousand miles separate the Latin American capital from the American tech capital. When Spanish colonists named two cities after Saint John, they thought this was far enough apart. Not anymore! Let's see: Both cities have large populations, big airports and similar codes: SJO & SJC. Callie Zucker thought she had clicked on the correct one when she bought tickets online. When the flight home from Italy landed in the tropics, she realized her mistake.

Auckland, New Zealand / Oakland, California. Perhaps the most famous mix-up happened decades ago to Michael Lewis. After flying home from Germany, he was switching flights at LAX. When he heard the announcer at the gate announce a similar sounding city name, he got in line. How did he board the flight? He asked: "Oakland?" and the attendant said "Yes!" Next, the flight crew somehow forgot to scan his incorrect boarding pass. Ouch! Fortunately, Air New Zealand flew back the exhausted passenger for free the next day.

Granada, Spain / Grenada, West Indies. Although not commonly confused, Travel & Leisure covered a humorous tale about this item recently. It involves Lameda Kingdon from the UK. She proudly booked herself a getaway to sunny Granada. She boarded a flight that she thought was going to Spain. After a gin & tonic, she naturally chatted up the passenger seated next to her. "She corrected my pronunciation," explains Kingdon. "No, dear. They call it Gren-a-da." Lameda had never even heard of the place she was flying to.

Sydney, NSW / Sydney, Nova Scotia. This one is funny because the two destinations are so dreadfully far apart. This was made painfully apparent to Milan Shipper, an adventurous 18-year old from Holland. He booked...all by himself...a spectacular hiking trip Down Under. Yet after transferring planes in Toronto, he knew something was afoot. First, he wondered if the twenty-seat aircraft was big enough to cross an ocean. Also, the "plane was going right, not left," explained Shipper.

So...remember readers...always triple-check those online airfares. Happy travels!


Friday, April 27, 2018

APR 27 WHY WAS DJ AVICII IN OMAN?


APR 27  WHY WAS DJ AVICII IN OMAN?

Last Friday, discos and clubs worldwide mourned the sudden passing of their beloved DJ Avicii. The accomplished Swede (real name: Tim Bergling) was found dead from apparent suicide in a hotel room in Muscat, Oman. At first, the DUNER BLOG planned to write about his many contributions to EDM (Electronic Dance Music). Next, we thought about covering the curse of being a Ralph Lauren model. However, the overwhelming question from staff members was: What was Avicii doing in Oman?

Before we start, some world geography is needed. Muscat is the capital of Oman, a sultanate on the Eastern tip of the Arabian peninsula. Its neighbors are Yemen, Saudi Arabia and the U.A.E. The latter nation is the reason Avicii was in Muscat. See, Dubai was one of his favorite places. During his career, he headlined numerous EMD festivals in the chic capital. As everyone knows, fantastic Dubai has burst on the worldwide scene as a entertainment mecca. In addition to musical events, the city has cutting-edge cuisine, 5-star resorts and high end fashion retailers...all the things an internationally famous DJ demands!

Sadly, a decade of the fast-life spent in fluorescent strobe lights began to take its toll on Avicii. Friends, like Sultan Al Nahyan of the U.A.E., suggested he relax in nearby Oman. He did and the DJ fell in love with Muscat...and for good reason. See, a hundred years ago, Dubai was a sleepy fishing village. But Muscat has 4,000 years of history. Ancient Greek geographer Pliny the Elder was the first to describe the city's stunning harbor, surrounded by majestic cliffs. The seaport's strategic location meant it was part of Persian, Abbasid and Portuguese empires. The latter built two towering forts in the 1500's, which are Muscat's top tourist attractions today.

However, Avicii was drawn to the opulence of Muscat's Ghubra District. The ritzy area dates back to the 1700's, when Oman was a world power. Then, the sultan controlled the southern coast on Arabia and Iran, as well as much of Africa's eastern shores. Did you know that Omani settlers are responsible for the invention of Swahili? It's a combination of Arabic and African languages. Sadly, the sultan's economy was based on slavery. When England banned the trade in 1802, the Omani Empire shrank in size. Currently, it's about the size of Italy.

While Dubai has encouraged growth...it boasts the tallest building in the world...Muscat has taken the opposite approach. Sultan Qaboos has banned any structure over seven stories to keep the Old Town's architecture intact. The result is a hidden gem for savvy travelers, like Avicii, who come to relax, unwind and meditate. He will be missed. For those of who don't follow EDM, have Pandora play 'Levels.' He mixes in Etta James and the results are truly mesmerizing.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

APR 21 BEST & WORST NBA SPONSOR PATCHES


APR 21  BEST & WORST NBA SPONSOR PATCHES

The NBA post-season is underway! Sixteen teams are all aggressively striving for the championship. For those of you who are just tuning in, you might have noticed something different about the NBA this season: For the first time ever, there are advertisements sewn into the players' jerseys. Called 'sponsor patches,' they are small...just 2.5 inches by 2.5 inches...and only visible on TV. Each team selects their own sponsor. Some teams choose wisely...other teams, not so much. Here's a quick rundown of some notable ones.

THE LOCAL ANGLE: Like a team nickname, a sponsor should reflect something unique about the city. For example, Detroit's team is called the PISTONS, a nod to the cars made there. (Cleaver!) Miami is hot, so their team is called the HEAT. (Not as cleaver.) So it follows that an ad on the jersey should also represent culturally their city. We salute the New Orleans Pelicans, who chose Zatarains. What would Cajun cuisine be without their beans and rice? We also like Harley Davidson on the Milwaukee Bucks' jerseys. Likewise, General Electric has been big in Massachusetts for 150 years, so they're a natural for the Boston Celtics. Ditto for Goodyear and Cleveland.

THE CORPORATE Sadly, many NBA franchises decided on boring international corporations for their Sponsor Patches. Rather than endorse cheesesteaks, the Philadelphia 76ers are represented by StubHub, a ticket swapping company. No local angle, but at least it's sports-related. The Orlando Magic have always been linked to the Disney Corporation, so it's no surprise to see Walt's famous signature on their gear. But Toronto's Sun Life Mutual patch and Detroit's Flagstar Bank logos on their basketball jerseys just doesn't feel right.

THE CONFUSING: Some teams decided to use their coveted, but small, space to introduce fans to a company or organization they may not already know about. The Brooklyn Nets have 'infor' next to their own logo. The enterprise software company is not exactly a household name. The Jazz is playing with '5 for the Fight.' This organization is raising money for cancer research, but you need to research to figure this out. We are also not impressed with the reigning champions. The Golden State Warriors didn't choose a sponsor with local ties like Ghiradelli Chocolate or Rice-a-Roni, the San Francisco treat. Nope, it's Rakuten, another online store based in Tokyo.

Surprisingly, NBA commissioner Adam Silver received very little opposition to the 'Sponsor Patches' this season. Thankfully, the other three pro leagues in the US remain opposed to advertisements on their players' bodies. But Silver is quick to note it will raise over $100 million in revenue. While that number sounds impressive, remember Russell Westbrook's contract alone is $205 million. Ironically, this was the best year ever for the NBA revenue-wise, so it seems silly to raise more money in such an obvious and offensive manner. We just want to warn the NBA about the slippery-slope advertising on people's clothing. Just look what happened to NASCAR drivers!


Friday, April 13, 2018

APR 13 GREAT PACIFIC GARBAGE PATCH IS NOW THE SIZE OF ALASKA


APR 13 GREAT PACIFIC GARBAGE PATCH IS NOW THE SIZE OF ALASKA

The most disturbing news story of the week is not what you think! No, it's not an inflammatory Trump Tweet. Nor is it another NBA player found cheating on his pregnant wife. It has nothing to do with Facebook. Nope, this week's truly terrifying item comes from a beach in Spain. A dead Sperm whale washed ashore. While this happens all the time, this time things were different. See, the enormous mammal did not die from natural causes. It died from the 40 pounds of plastic found in his stomach.

Sadly, dead sea creatures washing ashore with bellies full of colorful plastic is becoming commonplace worldwide. The largest problem is the Pacific Plastic Patch. While it sounds pretty, it is truly the opposite. Simply put, it is an enormous section of the North Pacific where waste collects. Why does this happen? Well, ocean currents are circular. So this means the center (gyre) of a current's massive circle receives little movement. Over the last fifty years, floating debris has accumulated. Hence, the name Garbage Patch.

However, the patch in the North Pacific Ocean has grown so large, it received a special moniker: It's the GREAT Pacific Garbage Patch. Ten years ago, National Geographic reported the GPGP had grown in size and was now about the size of Texas. Recently, a study using new satellite technology measured it at 617,000 square miles. That's a little larger than Alaska! Stay tuned, because it shows no signs of slowing down. Soon its size will be compared to nations instead of US States.

There's lots of fishing nets and waste from the 2011 tsunami in Japan, but most of the trash in the garbage patch is plastic. The difference between plastic and this other waste is simple. Other debris will eventually deteriorate, but indestructible plastic is stuck in the ocean forever. Well...actually, scientists speculate that plastic will eventually disintegrate in 500 years. So we'll just have to wait until the year 2518 to know for sure! It's clear: The real problem with the GPGP is delicious, brightly colored micro-plastics which whales just love to eat.

Humankind's love affair with plastic was understandable at first. It was first introduced to the US market in the 1950's. The amazing, wondrous material is stronger than paper and lighter than tin. Soon, plastic containers began replacing tin cans. Plastic bags began replacing paper bags. Nowadays plastic is omnipresent. But this dead whale clearly shows this love affair has gone awry. The DUNER BLOG is not green-washing: The people of earth really need to reconsider the long-term effects of plastic before the garbage patch reaches our beaches!


Thursday, April 5, 2018

APR 5 TIGER & ELEPHANT ATTACKS ON THE RISE IN INDIA


APR 5  TIGER & ELEPHANT ATTACKS ON THE RISE IN INDIA

Surprise! The toughest guy in the world isn't a GUY! Nope, it's 23 year-old Rapali Meshram. She lives on the edge of jungle in the Indian state of Maharashtra. One night, she heard her favorite goat scream in pain. She rushed outside to discover a massive tiger, crouched and ready to pounce. Did she run back inside and lock the door? Not the world's toughest guy! Instead, she grabbed a stick and tried to protect her goat. Details of the fight are sketchy, but we know that her mom dragged her back inside. Before heading to hospital, she took a selfie.

While this story of misplaced bravery makes for fun copy, the truth is Rapali is one of the lucky ones. Since 2014, one person a day in India dies from a tiger or elephant attack. Do the math: That's 1,144 people getting mauled or trampled to death in the last three years. Most deaths happen in a similar manner: A rancher or farmer attempting to protect their property. While it may seem extreme, remember: The goat, cattle or fruit tree is the person's lifeline, so it truly is a "life or death" matter.

The larger problem involves the simple fact that the nation of India isn't big enough anymore. As everyone knows, India's population is enormous and keeps expanding. It's at 1.3 billion and has grown by 3 by the time you reach the end of this blog. Also, tiger populations are rising. Since conservation efforts began in the 1970's, the number of wild tigers has doubled. The one statistic that isn't changing is India's size. It's holding steady at 1,266,219 square miles. So the government's plan to keep cramming more and more people and animals together is not working out.

The current problem began forty years ago, when the Indian government implemented the conservation act. Large swaths of sought-after lands were parceled off for nature reserves. At the time, there was enough land for every man and beast. Nowadays, new human settlements are seen as economic development, even if they are on the edge of a nature reserve. Belinda Wright of a Wildlife Protection Society agrees. "The shrinking of good quality habitats is an absolutely critical concern for the future of India's iconic animals."

Back to Rapali. Yesterday, she and her mother were discharged from hospital. They were told not to fight any more wild beasts. Sadly, things didn't go well for the goat, who did not recover from the attack. The tiger remains at large. The lesson here is that modern India is not the Kipling novel The Jungle Book. Humans and tigers cannot talk to each other and work things out. Yet this seems to be the government's approach to the problem. Let's face it: If India doesn't get serious about drawing, keeping and enforcing urban limit lines, conflict between will continue. How many more goats must die?