Weekly insights into our crazy world.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011



Over the weekend in Moscow, the newly formed political party RIGHT CAUSE held a convention.  Political conventions are still pretty new for Russians, as they were banned by both the Czar and the Soviets.  But nowadays, freedom of speech is more tolerated and...with that...comes the inevitable Political Convention.  You know the scene: A large sports arena is packed with rowdy, sign-waving delegates chanting fiery slogans.   They adore the smartly dressed politicians who give inspirational, lofty speeches.  Like in the USA, the Russian candidates promise everything: better schools, faster trains, higher quality medical care...even lower vodka prices.  (Okay! I made the last one up.)  Anyhow, something very newsworthy did occur at the RIGHT CAUSE conference: They elected MIKHAIL PROKHOROV their new leader.

Who?  Well, American sports fans already know about Mikhail. "The Bachelor Billionaire" recently purchased the NEW JERSEY NETS and became the NBA's first foreign owner. He has made it no secret he wants to move the team from smelly Newark to a brand-new, state-of-the-art arena in Brooklyn.  Followers of international finance also already know Mikhail.  Ten years ago, when Russian industries were in shaky hands, he boldly acquired NORILSK NICKEL, the world's largest nickel mine.  Then, the shrewd businessman junked their rusty ocean tankers and replaced them with really cool Finnish-made freighters.  These babies just slice through Arctic ice which dramatically reduced fuel costs, thus saving the corporation billions of rubles.   This, combined with a huge jump in the price of precious medals, landed our tycoon at his current spot: NUMBER THIRTY-NINE on the FORBES RICHEST LIST with a net worth of $18 Billion.

Wow!  You'd think that would be enough accomplishments for one man.  NYET! Don't forget, Mikhail is only 46 years old.  Having conquered the business world, he now wants to be conquer the political world and become the next president of Russia!  During Saturday's acceptance speech at the RIGHT CAUSE convention, Prokhorov clearly distanced himself from VLADIMIR PUTIN and his UNITED RUSSIA party.  "Let's ask an honest question" Mikhail asked.  "Do we have a multi-party system? Of course not."  In fact, he thinks Russia needs at least two parties to succeed in the future.  "It is in every school-book.  A monopoly is the enemy of all development."

Wait a second.  Democracy in Russia? No way! If there is one nation on earth that is synonymous with iron-fisted, tyrannically autocratic, If-you-disagree-with-me-I'll-send-you-to-Siberia, rule than Mother Russia.  Well, folks, it's a new day on the steppes and MIKHAIL PROKHOROV has become the poster-boy for the next generation of Russian leaders.  And why not?  Like Peter the Great, he stands tall at six foot eight.  (Hence his interest in basketball).  Like Ivan the Terrible, he demolishes opponents whether they are multinational corporations or power forwards.  And...like Mikhail Gorbachev...his first name is MIKHAIL!!

Whoa!  Before we get too carried away, let's take a TIME OUT.  One should never underestimate the awesome VLADIMIR PUTIN and his totalitarian grip on power.  When he stepped down as Prime Minister, a quickie election insured his clone DMITRY MEDVEDEV would be on the throne.  It's true: Worldwide, everyone knows who really controls Moscow and his name is Vladimir.  Therefore, many Russians feel that PROKHOROV is the same boat as Medvedev: Another Putin in sheep's clothing.  Let's look at the evidence.  We've all seen lots of Russian Billionaires in bad action movies and...let's face it...they're all gangsters!  Since when do thugs care anything about health care for the poor people?  The Russian billionaires that I know get into trouble with the police for having underage Romanian prostitutes come to a private party at a private Swiss chalet to insure their seedy French business guests are properly serviced.

Oops! Sorry, Mikhail!  But we here at the DUNER BLOG just love sordid stuff that that.  Readers: Just google the name of the resort (Courchevel) for all the lurid details!

Friday, June 24, 2011



Quick! A Question: What do Alexander the Great, Queen Victoria, Genghis Khan and Leonid Brezhnev all have in common?? They all tried to conquer Afghanistan but ended up leaving!  And...as of yesterday...we can add a new name to the list: PRESIDENT OBAMA!  In a press conference yesterday, he announced that almost all troops will be removed by September 2012.  So, on this magical date, this landlocked (but highly geocentric) nation will once again be independent and not ruled by Greece, Russia, Britain the USA or the Mongolian Horde.

So, to coincide with this historic announcement, we here at the DUNER BLOG evaluated these five attempts to conquer Afghanistan and gave each a grade.

ALEXANDER THE GREAT.  When the "Macedonian Madman" arrived in the year 330 BC, his army was now 60,000 strong, thanks to reinforcements from General Clitus (insert tasteless joke here).  They proceeded to annihilate the surprised Zoroastrian empires and burned their four main population centers to the ground. Each was re-built into cities and each named Alexandria (how creative!).  Today, they are the four main cities of Afghanistan: Kabul, Khandahar, Herat and Khost.  Although he didn't stay long, he kicked butt. GRADE: A-

GENGHIS KHAN.  There's not much written about what happened in 1219 when some 200,000  Mongolians horsemen came thundering in through from the East...but it's hard to imagine much was left.  While GENGHIS KHAN is often portrayed today as cartoonish and silly (as in the cinematographic masterpiece Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure), let's not belittle his savagery...especially to captured civilians.  Each Mongolian soldier had to kill 24 innocent people to stay in the army.  For unnecessary cruelty: GRADE: C-

QUEEN VICTORIA. As part of the Great Game of Chess...played between her majesty and the Czar of Russia, the peaceful Kingdom of Afghanistan became an unwitting player.  Britain took the first offensive and invaded from the South.  The result was not one..not two...but three Anglo-Afghan wars. The final one ended in a withdraw of British troops in 1914 to fight World War I.  For tenacity: GRADE: D+

LEONID BREZHNEV. The Russian Empire managed to gobble up many of the "Stans" of Central Asia.  Not surprisngly, the Soviet Union wanted to continue this great tradition by annexing Afghanistan into the USSR.  As always, they managed to rig an election to insure a pro-Soviet candidate won.  Shortly thereafter, in 1979, 100,000 Red Army troops stormed down from the northern border.  For nearly a decade, they stayed until the US-backed Taliban forced them out.  GRADE: D

BARACK OBAMA.  Although our current war was started by his predecessor, GEORGE W. BUSH, we'll just group these two old friends together.  This time, the USA decided to fight against the Taliban. While the troops have succeeded in liberating the four main towns founded by Alexander, the rest of the nation remains in serious limbo. GRADE: INC.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011



Every day, five express trains run between Vietnam's two main metropolises, HANOI and SAIGON.  The thousand-mile trip takes just 36 hours so thousands of people take it every day.  Last week, things were pretty normal on the three morning trains, but then all hell broke lose on the first afternoon departure.  It's the Vietnamese National Train Number SE3.   Just as it pulled into the town of Quang Ngai, an inquisitive conductor noticed some oddly shaped cloth bags on the floor underneath the passenger seats.  Carefully, he untied the ropes on top and then peered in to shockingly discover the contents of the strange sacks: Dozens of live King Cobras!  Passengers screamed in horror as they slithered around on the floor.  Panic ensued and the smugglers manged to escape.

One passenger, PHAM VAN AN, described the chaos: "Some of the snakes were very big and looked terrifying. Most people ran away."  She continued: "But some people went up to look at them.  The cobras rose up!"  The next day, the chief of Forest Protection, NGUYEN VAN HAN, issued a statement.  He confirmed that 45 kilograms of live King Cobras were indeed smuggled onto the SE3 train, likely bound for Saigon restaurants where they sell for $200 each.  The largest snake was a whopping 2.3 meters long.   Fortunately, the mouths of all the cobras had been carefully sewn shut by the (very brave) smugglers.  All snakes had their mouths freed and have been released in a nature reserve.  We here at the DUNER BLOG are just glad we weren't on that train. Who wants to put their ass inches away from the world's largest venomous creature?  What if the stitches on their mouths come undone?  Can cobras gnaw through cloth?

Oops.  While these questions inevitably arise in the ugly world of snake smuggling, let's move on. While most other global news reports on this story would simply end at this point with a silly joke about the movie SNAKES ON A PLANE, we here at the DUNER BLOG are different.  We want to bring more awareness to the real issue at take: Bush Meat.  As mentioned in an earlier blog (See: Chimpanzee Massacre in the Congo) the hunting, trafficking, preparation and consumption of protected wildlife is a serious problem in Vietnam and other nations worldwide.  According to a survey by the environmental group Wildlife At Risk,  84% of restaurants in the city of Saigon serve illegal meat purchased from poachers.  More than half of Hanoi residents acknowledged recently consuming "at least one of the following:" Wild porcupine, bear, weasel, snake or...the best delicacy of them all...freshwater turtle!

While Vietnam does have strict laws regarding improper uses of wildlife, the enforcement of these regulations is a very daunting task.  With only one policeman for every 100,000 residents, Vietnam is one of the least patrolled nations on earth.  The Vietnamese justice system is similarly over-extended,  with astronomical delays for trials.  This, combined with decades of corrupt judges, makes it very difficult to convict offenders.  In fact, no one has ever served the entire mandatory seven year guilty sentence for violating animal protection laws.  These stats, combined with the rising population projections, makes the situation for delicious-tasting animals worldwide even more dire.  A century from now, when snakes and monkeys are extinct, people will wonder why our generation did nothing to stop it, despite having all the resources to do so.

Finally, we here at the DUNER BLOG decided to do some investigating reporting.  Our FedEx driver  is a Vietnamese citizen, so we asked him about his opinion.  He replied: "The best way to eat snake is in soup.  I like it when they add lots of garlic and mushrooms."  He went on to clarify why people eat snake instead of chicken (which of course is what it takes just like).  "When you eat snake, it really warms your insides" he noted, rubbing his belly.  NOTE: Snake meat is also known as an aphrodisiac, but Hung didn't mention that.  One last thought: If you do decide to go to Saigon for some King Cobra Snake Soup, just make sure you drink any of the venom.  There's enough NEUROTOXIN in one bite (0.2 ounces) to kill 20 people!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011



Last week, when IMF head Dominique Strauss-Kahn was caught with his pants down in a posh Manhattan hotel room, Italian Prime Minister SERGIO BERLUSCONI must have had a long sigh of relief.  Why?  Sergio is happy that STRAUSS-KAHN is dominating the tabloid headlines and not him.  True, scandal-driven media outlets like TMZ and TIME MAGAZINE are all too busy covering the mess in France.  They won't even notice when your lewd trial begins THIS FRIDAY in Rome.  Hate to burst your bubble, Sergio, but we here at the DUNER-BLOG have news for you!  We spend hours comparing and contrasting international politician's extramarital affairs.  We know a good story when we see one! A creepy French guy striking out with a surprised hotel maid?  Sorry!  That sad tale simply can't compare to your wild and crazy BUNGA-BUNGA parties, Signor "Papi" Burlesconi! 

The main question is: What exactly is a BUNGA-BUNGA party?  No one really knows.  All we know really know for sure is how to pronounce it.  According to the BBC, it should be: 'BOONG-guh' 'BOONG-guh' (-oo as in moon, -ng-g as in finger, -uh as a in ago; stress on capital letters).  According to our research the term was first used in reference to this case by KARIMA EL-MAHROUG.  (She also goes by the name Ruby HeartStealer.)  Back in October of 2010, the 17-year-old Moroccan beauty told police in Milan that she had attended "Bunga-Bunga Parties" on numerous occasions at the Prime Minister's Arcore villa outside Milan.  Instantly afterward, Italian media began using the silly phrase to describe his notorious after-dinner erotic sex-acts, the subject of many criminal investigations.

Then, in January, a 36-year-old German actress and friend of Burlusconi put a new twist on the controversy.  "I AM BUNGA-BUNGA!" she proudly proclaimed on the cable news channel Sky Italia.  Fraulein Sabina organizes the events in question for the P.M. and stepped up to clarify the confusion over the origin of the term. "It is simply my nickname," she told reporters.  See, Sabina's last name, "Began" is quite similar to "Bunga."  Problem solved...right?  Wrong, says a former-aid of Sergio's long-time friend, embattered leader MUAMMAR GADDAFI.  The anonymous source recalls how impressed the Italian statesman was after attending his legendary sex parties held in a massive Saharan desert tent.  "He was utterly enthralled with the idea of having a personal harem of young Western women," claims the source.  So...according to this guy...'Bunga-Bunga' is Libyan slang for getting busy!

Not so fast!  More light was shed on the true definition of a BUNGA-BUNGA party last month when the website THE DAILY BEAST obtained Berlusconi court documents in Rome.  According to this testimony, some FORTY-THREE young women have already given evidence about the late-night activities in question.   A source described it as "an erotic ritual...an underwater orgy where nude young women allegedly encircled the nude prime minister and/or his friends in his swimming pool." Afterwards, all are paid handsomely for attending.  Similar details emerged from intercepted telephone calls reported in the British newspaper THE TELEGRAPH.  One showgirl cautioned another from attending, warning her: "You're either ready to do anything or you take a taxi and leave."

Finally...what does Sergio say?   How does he define "Bunga-Bunga?"  Well, he'll tell you the whole thing is just a silly old joke.  Here's how it goes: Two of Mr Berlusconi's political opponents are captured by a hostile African tribe. They are given an ultimatum: Death or 'bunga-bunga.' Scared, the first one opts for bunga bunga.  Instantly, he gets fran-cuoloed (Italian slang for you-know-what) by the entire tribe.  The second one, who now grasps what "bunga bunga" means, says he would prefer to die. To which the chief replies: "Okay...you will die!  But first: 'bunga-bunga.'"  What a hilarious joke! One person, however, is not laughing.  Berlusconi's second wife, Veronica Lario, recently announced their divorce.  She cited her husband's purported "fondness for minors" as the main reason. Hmmm.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011



It happens every day...in homes all over the world.  It's morning and Moms have to get their kids ready for school.  They pack up lunches.  They brush tangles out of their daughter's hair.  They remind their kids not to forget their homework.  Then, when everything is ready, they all head to the garage and jump into car and drive down the street to school.  Yep, this scenario pretty much happens everyday, in every city, in every country, around the world.   That is...in every country but one...THE KINGDOM OF SAUDI ARABIA.

Things are different in Saudi Arabia.  You see, last week in the Eastern city of Khobar, this exact same thing happened.  The woman driving the car is MANAL AL-SHARIF.  She's a 32 year-old IT employee with two kids.  About five blocks into her commute, she was pulled over by Saudi police.  She was arrested, taken into custody and remains in jail today.  Her crime is "Violating a Public Order," or Royal Decree No. 50/2.  This vague, all-encompassing sentence is heavily used in the vast desert wasteland known as the SAUDI JUSTICE SYSTEM.  If you thought Egypt's judicial system was bad, (See earlier blog: Everybody Hates Hosni Mubarak) at least in Cairo there is a pretend courtroom!  In Saudi Arabia, there are are simply no buildings where "trials" take place.  The nation is ranked near the last in the international human rights standings.

Anyhow, international groups like AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL, the HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH and the DUNER BLOG are all busy keeping tabs on Mrs. Sharif and her fate. Why? Because back in 1990 an incident very similar to Manal's happened in the Saudi capital.  In a coordinated protest, forty-seven women took to the streets in a flotilla of Volvos, Mercedes and Toyotas causing chaos all over RIYADH.  Like Manal, the ladies were arrested and jailed with little international attention.  It's  what happened afterward that has everyone concerned.  These horrible criminals were shamed, convicted, served jail time and were not allowed to work for three years.   Even today, all 47 women are still banned from ever leaving the Kingdom.  So we'll see what lies next for for our budding activist, MANAL AL-SHARIF, but it's not looking good.  It's highly unlikely she'll will be freed anytime soon.

Okay, it's easy for someone in the West to get on their high horse and turn MANAL AL-SHARIF into some modern-day ROSA PARKS!  So let's look at the other side of the coin.  Up until thirty years ago, her city of Khobar was a remote fishing village on the Persian Gulf.  Not surprisingly, it has been largely ignored throughout time.  Sure, it was under the "control" of a sultan in far-off Baghdad, Cairo or Constantinople...but the real power has always been under the mighty, ultra-conservative, ultra-Islamic SAUD FAMILY.  With their strict adhiration to WAHHADISM and SHARIA LAW, they have managed to turn a god-foresaken place like Khobar into a pretty decent place to live...while the rest of the world revels in debauchery.  So even a hint of change is viewed as "sinful," according to local cleric ABDEL-RAHMAN AL-BARAK.  He fears people like Manal are "opening the doors of sin" and should be punished.

For the time being, let's just hope Adbel and Manal can manage to come to a compromise...especially by JUNE 17TH.  Why?  Because, that's the date Manal's ONLINE CAMPAIGN has chosen for the first ever SAUDI WOMEN'S DRIVE-IN DAY (or something like that). On this upcoming Friday, ladies all over Arabia are encouraged to stand up to the establishment by getting behind their (steering) wheels of freedom and drive to the promised land.  "We want to live as complete citizens, without the humiliation that we are subjected to every day because we are tied to a driver,” her Facebook message reads. “We are not here to break the law or demonstrate or challenge the authorities, we are here to claim one of our simplest rights."  Sound interesting,
ladies? Well, you too can help Manal.  You see, Saudi law forbids all women (including foreigners) from operating motor vehicles.  So what are you waiting for, girl?  Get yourself on a plane to RIYADH, rent yourself a car and have the joyride you'll never forget!