Weekly insights into our crazy world.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

JUNE 21 FIDGET SPINNERS CONFISCATED AT GERMAN AIRPORT


JUNE 21 FIDGET SPINNERS CONFISCATED AT GERMAN AIRPORT

Last Friday, authorities at Frankfurt Airport announced the seizure of 39 tons of Fidget Spinners. The dozens of crates holding the dreaded, 'must have' toy of 2017 are currently being crushed into tiny bits in a warehouse in neighboring Mannheim. Customs officials clarified: The confiscated items had loose parts that posed choking habits. Furthermore, the Fidget Spinners lacked proper paperwork and instructions. Normally, defective goods are simply returned to the factory. However, the Chinese manufactures declined. See, the shipping costs outweigh the value of the merchandise. Anyhow...regardless of the motivation...German authorities did what the rest of the world desperately wants: The immediate destruction of all Fidget Spinners worldwide.

Never heard of a Fidget Spinner? Sure...some readers don't interact with kids much or don't live near a Chinatown...so here's a quick description: A disc and a bearing are placed in the center of a three-sided star made of plastic or metal. Kids spin the outer sections while balancing the non-moving part on their thumb, finger, nose, chin, etc. Deluxe spinners can be adjusted for spin time, vibration and (annoying humming) noises. Simple and extremely profitable. Fidget Spinners held all 15 top spots on May's Amazon.com's Toy Sales chart.

However, it's not the spinning part that makes this toy so out-worldly popular. (After all...yo-yo's just spin, but you don't see them in toy stores anymore.) Nope, what makes Fidget Spinners popular is their ability to help children with ADHD concentrate. They alleviate the need for the constant stimulation and allow a kid to pay attention better. One brand bills itself as "Great for ADD, ADHD, Autism & Anxiety." This appeals to many desperate parents. See, Fidget Spinners aren't toys...they are medical intervention. A wondrous stress reliever...For just $5.99!

Sounds great, but let's dig deeper into the studies backing this claim up. They only problem is the lack of any actual scientific research whatsoever. The closest we could find was an article by Cat Bowen, a lifestyle writer at Romper.com. She noted her autistic son improved on math homework when he used a Fidget Spinner. This factoid then entered the Internet and soon became Fake News. Now Middle School teachers nationwide are clamoring to make sense of the situation, as kids claim they are not toys. Sadly, banning them from classrooms has only succeeded in making them more popular with kids!

Back to Frankfort Airport. While the reasoning for the confiscation of the Fidget Spinner was solidly administrative, we can't help but feel the actual motivation was elsewhere. Socialist countries are more protective of children. For example: It's illegal for cartoon characters to hawk sugary cereals on TV ads. Germans view Fidget Spinners as a menace. They understand that exactly the opposite is also occurring. Some ADHD kids succeed while spinning, but the vast majority just stare at the spinner and don't learn at all. Free-market nations like the USA and Mexico are constantly vulnerable to scams like this, and the Germans do not want to fall for it!



Saturday, June 17, 2017

JUNE 17 TOP FIVE HANDSOMEST WORLD LEADERS



JUNE 17 TOP FIVE HANDSOMEST WORLD LEADERS

One of the most memorable moments in US politics is the Nixon / Kennedy Presidential Debate in 1960. Prior to the televised event, Nixon enjoyed a double-digit lead in the polls. However, after appearing sweaty and yucky next to the dashing and clean-shaven Kennedy, Dick was defeated. The message: You don't have to be handsome to be a world leader...But it helps! This is proving to be true in 2017 as well. A horde of hunky men have burst onto the international stage. Here's a current Top Five:

#5. Borut Pahor, Slovenia. Melania isn't the only gorgeous creature to come from this tiny Alpine country! Meet Borut. No...he's nothing like the offensive movie character Borat. Just the opposite, actually. Prime Minister Pahor is refined and charming, with crystal clear blue eyes that have ladies' hearts a-flutter all across Central Europe. Although not married, he has a 4 year-old son with his partner, Tanja Pešar. Keep an eye out for Borut in the near future. He thinks Ljubljana would be a perfect neutral site for a Trump / Putin summit. So does Melania.

#4. Jovenel Moïse, Haiti. Not only is he handsome, but Jovenel is also beautiful on the inside. His goal in life is to bring higher standards of living to the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere. Somehow, he secured billions of dollars in loans. Unlike many other shady Caribbean leaders, Jovenel has NOT embezzled a franc. Instead he's built water purification plants and used solar and wind generators to bring electricity to the slums. Sadly, he has an uphill battle ahead of him. France has never admitted the historical wrongs of their slave past in Haiti and needs to take a more active role in correcting these errors.

#3. Enrique Pena Nieto, Mexico. When elected five years ago, pollsters in Mexico estimated Enrique received a whopping two-thirds of the female vote. (Maybe they thought they were voting for Enrique Iglesias). They love his policies and his
baby-face smile and boyish charm. He needs all the love in Mexico today. Trump has placed him in a lose/lose situation. Standing up to America hurts the Mexican economy. Giving in to America hurts your popularity at home. EPN had only has one year left and Mexican presidents cannot be re-elected. Let's see if anyone else can do a better job balancing this difficult and complex issue..

#2. Emmanuel Marcon, France. During the Clinton impeachment proceedings, all of France wondered what Bill did wrong. See, the
French have very liberal notions in terms of love and marriage. Take Marcon for example. He married his High School Drama teacher...who is 24 years older. They don't have any kids, but two of his three step-children are older than him. None of this mattered to French voters who elected their youngest president ever in May. Last month, he garnered international praise when he scolded Trump for abandoning the Paris Climate Accord. "Make Earth Great Again!" he clamored.

Photos courtesy of TMZ
#1. Justin Trudeau, Canada. C'mon! This one is so obvious. In the two years since assuming the office of Prime Minister, Justin has been on many magazine covers. However...in addition to The Economist, Time and Newsweek...he's also graced the cover of Cosmopolitan, Elle, Woman's Day magazines as well. The Internet is constantly trending some ten-year old shirtless or beach photos of Justin. You get the point. Of course: He's married with kids. Sadly, that still hasn't stopped women from trying to break into Rideau Hall to get a glimpse of his Raven tattoo.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

JUNE 10 MAKING SENSE OF THE QATARI CRISIS


JUNE 10 MAKING SENSE OF THE QATARI CRISIS

Seemingly overnight, nine Arab nations have turned on Qatar. They've suspended diplomatic relations and severed all economic ties. Planes are grounded, harbors are silent and people are worried. Why the fuss? Qatar is being called out for supporting terrorism and Iran. As with most complicated international crises, people turn to the DUNER BLOG for answers. Let's get to the mailbox.

Where in world is Qatar? About the size of Maryland, Qatar sticks out like a thumb on the Arabian Peninsula. Surrounded by the Persian Gulf on three sides, it sits on enormous oil and natural gas reserves. The name dates back to ancient Rome, when famed geographer Ptolomy called the land 'Catara.'

Why is Qatar in trouble? For the last decade, the Arab community has accused Qatar of supporting the Muslim Brotherhood. This century-old organization originally supported a pan-Arab state, but has recently wavered toward Islamic fundamentalism. Saudi Arabia and the UAE label them a terrorist organization. However, the straw that broke the camel's back was a recent post by the Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim al Hamad al Thani. He showed his support of hated economic and religious rival Iran. He called them an 'Islamic Power' and criticized US policies toward Tehran. That's a big "No-no" for a Sunni nation, even if it is true..

What are the hacking allegations? As always these days, any international story must involve Russian hackers. The Emir says he never issued any Pro-Iran statements. He blames...wait for it...Russian hackers for the Fake News. While this seems preposterous, Internet pirates do have a reputation for stirring up trouble and kicking hornet's nests whenever possible. Current congressional hearings in the US Congress are discovering that direct links to anything are not easy to find.


Isn't Qatar rich enough to ride this out? With a per-capita income of $147,000 tiny Qatar is the wealthiest nation on earth. It's also the most reliant on foreign labor. Native Qataris are a minority in their own state, only comprising 12% of the population. These uber-rich people have the fantastic financial reserves will not be rationing food. However, it's the other 88% that is cause for worry. The Pakistani and Bangladeshi guest workers will be hit the hardest.

What are the global impacts? Qatar is an OPEC member, so the embargo has already resulted in a small spike in petroleum prices worldwide. Otherwise, the impacts will be largely symbolic. On one hand, this is yet another move in the endless chess game between Sunni and Shi'ite states in the Persian Gulf. On the other hand, it is one of the few times any Islamic state has acted economically against a terrorist-supporting nation. This is important. Until the Islamic world ends its cultural acceptance of suicide bombings as 'part of life,' the rest of the world will be on constant red alert

Saturday, June 3, 2017

JUNE 3 TOP FIVE COASTAL DRIVES WORLDWIDE


JUNE 3 TOP FIVE COASTAL DRIVES WORLDWIDE

This year, California experienced its rainiest year in 122 years of record keeping. This has resulted in mudslides all over the Golden State. The most notable is on the coast near Big Sur. Just how big is the slide? The USGS estimates that 13 acres of coastline have been created by the slide, totaling in 71 million cubic feet of dirt. Sadly, famed Highway #1 will be closed for a year as Caltrans tries to dig out 80 feet of mud on the roadway. This inspired us at the DUNER BLOG to rank the five best shoreline drives NOT closed this summer:

#5. Ruta #1, Chile. Similar to California's Route #1, this Chilean Highway hugs the jagged Pacific coastline in dramatic fashion. It tallies a whopping 438 kilometers of spectacular views. What separates this stretch of road from others is the amazing spectrum of natural wonders the driver encounters. It begins in the Atacama, the world's driest desert, which looks more like the moon than earth. Along the way, you'll see pink sand dunes, hot springs, geysers on one side of the road and stunning steep cliffs and long sandy beaches on the other.

#4. Great Ocean Road, Australia. When Aussie soldiers returned home from the Great War, the government put them to work building this lengthy coastal highway. They dedicated it to the soldiers who didn't make it home...making the Great Ocean Road the largest war memorial on earth. To accomplish this, workers carved out a thin strip of road from the 500-foot high ocean cliffs. The highlight is the famous 12 Apostles limestone foundations. Keep your eyes peeled for wildlife as well. Anteaters, kangaroos, parrots and penguins complete a fantastic array of exotic animals.

#3. The Road to Hana, Hawaii. Although only 52 miles long, this road feels much, much longer. That's because there are 600 hairpins turns and 54 one-lane bridges to slow you down tremendously. But that's a good thing. Otherwise, you might miss the ten waterfalls, thousand-foot cliff drops and the tiny coves of gorgeous black sand beaches. Also impressive is the lush vegetation that covers parts of the road in a fragrant canopy. It takes around three hours to drive to the town of Hana. Do the math: Your average speed is 13 miles per hour.

#2. Overseas Highway, Florida. Originally built for trains by an entrepreneur way back in 1910, the goal was to connect 18 islands off the southernmost tip of Florida. Then, in 1935 the Labor Day Hurricane washed away 30 miles of the railway line. When restored, the tracks were removed and replaced with highway. Today, there are 42 separate bridges, the longest being the Seven-Mile Bridge at Marathon. It's appeared in many movies, including Mission Impossible, Fast & the Furious and in 007: License to Kill. All in all, it takes five hours to drive the entire 113 miles. Try to do it at sunset, when a unique spectrum of pink, purple and orange fill the sky.

#1. Amalfi Coast Road, Italy. Clocking in at the top spot is State Route #163 which runs from Sorrento to Salerno on Italy's rugged Amalfi Coast. Originally constructed by ancient Romans, the highway today has two lanes. If you're scared of heights, drive in the Northern direction. Otherwise, you car door will be inches away from 1,000 foot cliffs with only a tiny metal railing separating you and the Mediterranean Sea way below. Also thrilling are the daredevil Italian motorists, who'll speed and brake continuously. Not surprisingly, the Amalfi Coast Road has also been in dozens of movies (the best being Bogart's Beat the Devil) and even video games (Gran Turismo 4). Both display the road's precarious curves with little to separate you from the craggy sea boulders below. Not for the fainthearted!


Tuesday, May 23, 2017

MAY 23 HIGHLIGHTS FROM PIPPA MIDDLETON'S WEDDING


MAY 23 HIGHLIGHTS FROM PIPPA MIDDLETON WEDDING

There's nothing DUNER BLOG loves better than a Royal Wedding! Although Pippa isn't technically a member of the House of Windsor, lots of royals showed up...so that's close enough! Anyhow, after countless interviews from 'close sources,' we've complied some highlights from the momentous occasion.

ROYAL ATTENDEES. While the Queen, Prince Philip, Charles & Camilla did not attend the nuptials in Berkshire, plenty of younger royals did. Front and center was Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge, who served as the Maid of Honour. Her hubby, Prince William was helping out with their two toddlers. See, Princess Charlotte and Prince George were the flower girl and pageboy. Also in the bridal party was Princess Eugenie and Countess Philippa Hoyas.

THE DRESS. Pippa shone brightly in a stunning white lace gown with dramatic cap-sleeves. Made by famed designer Giles Deacon, it cost around £40,000...what a bargain! Meanwhile, fashion critics have been quick to sour on the choice of her sister. Kate wore an Alexander McQueen ensemble that clearly underwhelmed. Described as drab and unimaginative, it was unlike her usual fashion savvy. We here at the DUNER BLOG know why she said yes to this dress. As a bride, she was overshadowed by Pippa at her own wedding. A true royal doesn't get even, but instead plays it forward.

THE UNWANTED GUEST. For the last year, Prince Harry has been dating C-List American actress Meghan Markle. Speculation about her attending the wedding has been swirling around tabloids for months. However, since the two are NOT married, this would be a clear violation of Pippa's rule for attending the ceremony: No Ring, No Bring. So after the ceremony, Prince Harry drove to Kensington Palace, picked Meghan up, and then drove fifty miles back to the reception....where Pippa does allow girlfriends. Apparently, Meghan wore a black dress, but we cannot verify this report.

THE AWKWARD TOAST. Weddings are tough. You can spend a million dollars. You can invest a thousand hours. But you cannot control the weather (it rained), nor can you control what the Best Man will say in his speech. Justin Johannsen began his toast by comparing Pippa to a dog "they both come on command.." Cringeworthy jokes continued about where he kept the ring, but he finished strong. "You warm the hearts of everyone who knows you" he told Pippa. "And you have won the heart of the best man I know." Awww!

THE GROOM. James Matthews is an London investment banker. The financier comes from a wealthy family (No surprise) and he stands to inherit half of Scotland upon his father's death. James loves to play polo and holiday in the South of France. While he seems right for the job, we just wish Pippa had considered marrying a successful blogger instead!



Saturday, May 20, 2017

MAY 20 TOP FIVE CELEBRITIES RUNNING FOR PRESIDENT IN 2020


MAY 20 TOP FIVE CELEBRITIES RUNNING FOR PRESIDENT IN 2020

The most frightening development in the Trump presidency isn't what you think. It doesn't involve surprise attacks in Syria, department heads being suddenly fired or health plans being cancelled. Nope, what scares us most at the DUNER BLOG is the continued blurring of the line between celebrity and politician. Inspired by The Donald's leap from NBC reality TV to the Oval Office, dozens of actors, talk-show hosts and singers are now contemplating a presidential candidacy in 2020. Here are the Top Five to worry about:

#5. Kanye West. Long before Trump won his first primary, the quixotic hip-hop icon stated his intentions for the White House in 2020. Like most candidates, he made the announcement at the MTV Music Award Show. While clutching the Moon-Man statue for Video Vanguard, Kanye ended his 10-minute rant with: "As you've probably guess: Yes, I will run for President in 2020." Let's hope the rambling rapper changes his mind on this one. Kim Kardashian as First Lady seems downright weird.

#4. Katy Perry. Given the sub-par effort shown on her latest album, Witness, it seems Katy's mind is elsewhere these days. During the election, Katy became an avid Hilary supporter, appearing beside her at numerous events and tweeting up a storm. While Ms. Perry has yet to make a grandiose statement like Kanye, she did drop a serious hint on Instagram last year. At a gala, Katy posted a photo of herself sandwiched between two former presidents, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. She captured it "42, 43...46?!" thus referring to herself as the 46th president. While no one can doubt Ms. Perry's enthusiasm, it would be nice to have someone in the White House with a college degree.

#3. The Rock. While Kanye and Katy's careers are in decline, Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson is clearly on top. Raking in $64.5 million last year, he's the highest paid actor on earth. In an interview in this month's GQ Magazine, he stated he would gladly leave Hollywood behind for a higher calling. As an independent, he would make bipartisanship his top priority. "Disagreement informs us," The Rock notes. He isn't shy about his anger towards Trump and his "snap judgment" on immigration policy. But mostly, we think it would also be fun to see him wrestle with Putin at a G8 Summit!

#2. Mark Zuckerberg. Perhaps the most qualified entry on our list is the Harvard grad and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. While the billionaire spends lavishly on himself, he seems to have a soft side. His philanthropic organization, the Chan-Zuckerberg Initiative, already touts many politicians as members. It seems Mark is also behaving like a politician these days. He's on a quest to visit all 50 states by years' end. Last month, Mark went to a Ford factory in Michigan and a fire station in Indiana. At both stops, he meets with locals, listens to their problems and then posts everything on Facebook. Unlike the singers on this list, Mark has proven his amazing creativity with an invention that has touched a billion people worldwide.

#1. Oprah Winfrey. While the other four folks on this list seemed pumped and ready to run, the Queen of Daytime Talk has been curiously quiet on the matter. Her friend Gayle makes hints and her publicist is coy, but nothing official has come from Ms. Oprah on the matter. This hasn't stopped pollsters from asking Americans what they think about her. They found she has one trait that no other candidate has: Likability. 82% of Democrats and 52% of Republicans have a favorable opinion of the Talk-show host. As they say on TV: "STAY TUNED, AMERICA!"



Wednesday, May 10, 2017

MAY 10 MARATHON RECORD UNOFFICIALLY BROKEN


MAY 10 MARATHON RECORD UNOFFICIALLY BROKEN

Over the weekend, Olympic Marathon champion Eliud Kipchoge smashed the all-time record by two and a half minutes! Why wasn't this the top story on ESPN's SportsCenter? Well, the race was not officially sanctioned by the IAAF. In fact, it wasn't even a race actually. See, Kipochoge ran in a completely controlled environment, aided by anything possible (except steroids) to help the runner. The goal of the event, (named Breaking2) was to break the elusive two-hour mark, which no human has ever accomplished. Although Eliud bested the world record, he was 25 seconds over two hours. Curious? Let's answer the obvious questions:

What were the alterations? First, it was held on the Monza Formula One Racetrack in Italy, which has the optimum climate for distance running. Next, race time was oddly at 5:45 am, when only Kenyans enjoy running. Then, there were the pace setters: Two-time Boston Marathon champ Lelisa Desisa & Zersenay Tadese, the current half-marathon champ. Also helping with the pacing was a green light that shone on the ground by an electric Tesla driving in front. If Eliud simply kept up with the line, he could finish in two hours flat. Finally, he had mopeds deliver fluids while he ran.

Why are Kenyans such great distance runners? Since the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City, Kenyans and Ethiopian runners have dominated distance events. One reason is genetics. This part of the world has people with a body type featuring longer legs and a smaller rib cage than other folks. Next, both nations have high altitudes. Runner's bodies adjust to functioning with less oxygen. Socially, these regions rely on walking great distances for water sources, school and work. Kenyans don't drive their kids around town. Finally....like baseball players from the Caribbean...distance running is seen as the only way out of extreme poverty.

Why do we obsess about Marathons? Funny, nothing else from the Greco-Persian Wars remains relevant today. But the Battle of Marathon still permeates. While horribly outnumbered, the Greek city-states had one major advantage over the Persians: Smarts. Knowing that the cavalry was the Persian's strength, the Greeks lured their enemy into the soggy marshes where the horses' hooves got stuck. Since there were no cellphones in 490BC, a messenger named Philippides was chosen to run to Athens with news of the stellar victory. He sprinted the 26 miles before announcing; "νενικήκαμεν" Historians debate the validity of the tale, but Olympic founder Pierre du Coubertin didn't care. In the first modern games in 1896, he re-created the race with a big finish in Athens. Since then, the event has evolved into the ultimate challenge in track.

Who pays for all this? Nike funded the entire event. They're hoping bloggers mention that next month, a new Zoom Vaporfly Elite running shoe is coming to a sporting goods store near you. Oops. While the CEO back in Oregon is disappointed Kipchoge didn't break the two-minute barrier, we salute Nike for having the courage to try. We are also in complete awe of the athlete himself. "No limits" is Kipchoge's slogan and he isn't lying. He's won seven of his last eight marathons, including two Olympics. It's just a matter of time before he tries again and breaks one of sport's most intimidating records.