Weekly insights into our crazy world.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013



In Europe and North America, Christmas traditions involve lots and lots of snow.  There's snowmen, snowballs, snowmobiles and snowglobes.  However, back in the Holy Lands...where the birth of Christ actually occurred...Christmas never means snow.  The Negev Desert is simply too hot.  It boasts an average December temperature around 57 degrees (14 Celsius).

However...for the first time in 120 years...snow has fallen on the Holy Lands!  At the Church of the Nativity on Hevron Street in Bethlehem...the spot generally regarded as the actual location of our dear savior's birth...children are tossing snowballs at each other.  And it's not just a dusting of powder either.  Almost two feet of snow was recorded, with possibly more on the way. 

While it's fun, silly and whimsical for the world's Christians to look at photos of Holy Shrines covered in snow, for the Jews and Muslims who actually live there, the situation is serious.  Four people have died and half of the capital is without power.  "Jerusalem has never seen anything like this" said Mayor Nir Barkat.  The thriving metropolis is at a complete standstill. All roads to the metropolis are blocked, and only the trains are running.

In the nearby Gaza Strip, things are even more dire.  As expected, the lower elevations of Israel have been inundated with flood waters.  Bustling highways have been transformed into rivers of mud.  Overwhelmed sewage treatment facilities have been forced to dump untreated waste into the Mediterranean Sea.  However...the state of emergency forced a temporary suspension of sanctions to the isolated Gaza Strip. Both Israel and Qatar have sent emergency food and fuel supplies to the perilous area.

Finally...despite the difficulties...it's hard not to wonder if the Blizzard of 2013 is of divine origin.  After all, he Bible prophecies about "the treasuries of snow" (Job 38:22) which will bring purification to the Holy Lands.  We here at the DUNER BLOG want to take it a step further.  We see the heavenly snowfall as a gift from God to end social infighting.  From now on, the region will cease to fight any more wars and everyone will live in harmony forever.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013



This week's blog comes to us from the Antarctic!  That's where the Virgin Money South Pole Allied Challenge is taking place.  Basically, it's a bunch of wealthy, adventurous dudes who are racing to the South Pole for charity.  It's too bad the event isn't being turned into a Reality TV show.  We love the stars.  There's Hunky Prince Harry, "True Blood" star Alexander Skarsgard and Dominic West from 'The Wire.'   Watching them slogging through the snow would make for a great show!

Anyhow, we here at the DUNER BLOG saw the event as a great opportunity to answer the age old question: Who owns Antarctica anyhow? 

RUSSIA.  If any one nation has a valid claim to the entire continent, it's Russia.  Per the colonial rules: Whichever European explorer sees a land mass first, gets to claim it as sovereign territory.  Therefore, the Russian explorer Mikhail Lazarev was indeed the first human ever to see the frozen land in 1830  Today, the largest research base on Antarctica bears the name of his ship: The Vostok.

NORWAY.  If Russia's claims seem arbitrary, then we really need to take Norway's into consideration.  On December 14th, 1911 famed explorer Roald Adumnson became the first person to set foot on the South Pole.  Joining him were four other Norwegians and 16 dogs.  They plopped their flag deep into the ice and called it Queen Maud Land.

BRITAIN & FRANCE.  Following World War I, both nations simultaneously made large claims of Antarctic land.  Using the South Pole as the center, they carved up slices of pie based on longitude lines.  These claims were coordinated with scientific missions as well.  England's slice is called Queen Elizabeth's Land while France's territory is known as Adelie's Land.

GERMANY.  Everyone knows the Third Reich was into World Domination...but didja know they conquered Antarctica?  True story: In 1938, German planes dropped thousands of aluminum poles with plastic swastika flags over 96,500 square miles of land.  Hitler called the new province 'New Schwabia."  NOTE: These claims are defunct today.

NEW ZEALAND.  The British explorer James Clark Ross was one of the first people to map the continent's coastline from 1839 - 43.  The region due south of New Zealand was called Victoria's Land.  After independence, the Royal Crown officially seeded the area to the new government in Wellington.  Out of respect, the region was renamed after the explorer as the Ross Dependency.

AUSTRALIA.  Shortly afterward, the jealous Aussies demanded a share of Antarctica as well.  Enderby Land was made official a year later in 1933.  Since Australia has the largest coastline facing Antarctica, it has the biggest chunk of land as well.  NOTE: This is where every one's favorite Antarctic movie, March of the Penguins, was filmed.

CHILE.  Conversely, if Australia has the longest southern-facing coastline, then poor, skinny Chile has the smallest.  However, Chile happens to be the nation closest to Antarctica.  This means quicker access to bases.

ARGENTINA.  Naturally, the Argentine claim begins at the exact spot where the Chilean claim ends.  It is interesting to note that both South American nations have their Antarctic wedges classified as official provinces, despite their lack of a permanent populations.  

ANTARCTIC TREATY.  On December 1, 1959, all eight nations signed legislation which neither validated their claims nor disavowed them.  Rather, it laid down rules for future use of Antarctic lands.  Specifically, it sets aside Antarctica as a scientific preserve, establishes freedom of scientific investigation and bans military activity and mining.  However...if something really valuable is discovered, you know this piece of paper will be scrapped!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013



Once again, we here at the DUNER BLOG have been searching the globe for important news stories you might have missed.  This week, we're off to East Africa!  On Saturday, the heads of state from five nations signed a major trade agreement.  Standing united at a press conference in Kampala, the five large men announced the formation of a new common market and a single currency.  Soon, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi will operate as a giant, united, economic powerhouse. 

Called the East African Community (EAC), the new group will be impressive.  The EAC boasts a population of 135 million people and $85 billion in total Gross Domestic Product.  By uniting their economies, the coalition hopes to change the negative aspects of the region that ultimately deter foreign investment.  "The promise of economic development and prosperity hinges on our integration," said Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta

Currently, the only outside nation investing heavily in the region is...you guessed it...CHINA!  The PRC is currently co-funding a $13.8 billion dollar railroad in Kenya linking Nairobi with Mombasa.  The plan is to replace the archaic British line which first opened in 1891.  When completed, it will provide a much needed connection to the sea for the three landlocked nations in the group.  Now, they will be able to get their goods to the outside world.

You ask: "What does Rwanda export anyhow?"   The good news: It isn't just sugar and bananas anymore!  Large petroleum deposits have recently been discovered in Central Uganda and Western Kenya.  Likewise, Tanzania has vast, untapped natural gas reserves.  However, all five nations lack the infrastructure needed to exploit these natural resources.  The single currency will change all that.  It will "provide the absence of currency risk and a present a greater incentive to invest and trade in East Africa" said Kenyatta.

Interestingly enough, the EAC is not the first super-currency on the African continent.  Elsewhere, the Central African Franc is the currency of six nations.  Meanwhile, the West African Franc is the money used in eight nations.  With plans underway in Southern Africa for a similar plan, a most exciting event in African politics is occurring.  Nations are moving away from the arbitrary lines drawn by European powers 150 years ago.  Today, they are shifting towards larger, more logical, economic entities.  And...they are also forgetting about the issues that used to divide them.  Included in the EAC are both Hutus and Tutsis and both Christians and Muslims.  What a future! 

Tuesday, November 26, 2013



Over the weekend, the staff of the DUNER BLOG went to Stanford University for the 116th installment of our beloved football rivalry.  In our attempt to keep our minds off the lopsided game on the field, we instead decided to list our 15 favorite College Football Rivalries and their beloved trophies.

THE BIG GAME. Cal vs. Stanford.  First played: 1885. Overall record: Cardinal leads, 59-46-11.  Trophy: The Stanford Axe.  At the first Big Game, the Stanford Rally Committee fired up the crowd by chopping the heads off stuffed teddy bears.  Berkeley students stole the axe.  Today, the original axe is mounted on a plaque.  The winners of the game get to keep it for 364 days, until the next football match.

THE GAME. Harvard vs. Yale. First played: 1875. Overall record: Bulldogs lead 65-57-8. Trophy: The Little Red Flag.  This rivalry is the oldest of all.  How old? The first score was 4-0.  (You're asking yourself: How is that score possible?)  Back then, a team got zero points for a touchdown..only the chance to make the one-point conversion!

THE RIVALRY. Michigan vs. Ohio State.  First Played: 1897. Overall record: Wolverines lead 58-44-6.  While other college football match-ups are older, this rivalry is the most important.  Over the last 40 years, it has determined more Rose Bowl and National Championships than any other game on our list.

THE BORDER WAR. Kansas vs. Missouri.  First Played: 1891. Overall record: Tigers lead 57-54-9.  Trophy: Indian War Drum.  While most college football rivalries are fought only on the field, these two sides actually fought a bloody conflict during the civil war.  Over 4,000 people died in savage, guerrilla-like attacks.

THE CIVIL WAR Oregon vs. Oregon State. First played: 1894. Overall record: Ducks lead 60-46-10. Trophy: Platypus Trophy.  This odd award represents both sides of the rivalry.  It has the bill of a duck, but the tail of a beaver.

THE EGG BOWL. Mississippi State vs. Ole Miss.  First played: 1901. Overall record: Rebels lead 61-42-6. When this grudge match was first played, footballs weren't as nicely shaped as they are today.  In fact, many Mississippians thought they looked like eggs, and the moniker stuck.

THE HOLY WAR. Utah vs. BYU.  First played: 1896. Overall record: Utes lead, 57-34-4. Trophy: Beehive Boot. Since the Brigham Young University is a religious institution and the University of Utah is a public one, when the two meet on the football field, it hearkens back to the crusades.

THE RED RIVER SHOOTOUT. Texas vs. Oklahoma.  First played: 1900. Overall record: Longhorns lead, 60-43-5.  Named after the body of water the separates the two states, this rivalry is unique because it is always played at a neutral site: The Cotton Bowl in Dallas.

THE APPLE CUP. Washington vs. Washington State.  First played: 1900. Overall record: Huskies lead, 67-32-6.  As everyone knows, the top product in the state is apples.  Awhile ago, the large basket of fruit was replaced with an impressive trophy.

THE WORLD'S LARGEST COCKTAIL PARTY. Florida vs. Georgia. First played: 1915. Overall record: Bulldogs lead 50-40-2. Trophy: The Okefenokee Oar.  This game is also played at a neutral site, Jacksonville.  Today, city officials are trying to distance themselves from the 'cocktail' nickname after alcohol-fueled melees tarnished the last couple games.

THE IRON SKILLET. Southern Methodist vs. Texas Christian.  First played: 1915. Overall record: Horned-frogs lead, 46-40-7.  Back in the 1940's, a SMU fan mocked the 'Horned-frog' nickname by frying frog legs before the game.  TCU won the game and the fan presented the skillet he used (as well as the tasty frog legs) to the opposition.  The tradition continues today.

THE LITTLE BROWN JUG. Michigan vs. Minnesota. First Played: 1892.  Overall record: Wolverines lead, 73-24-3.  Although not little, and certainly not brown, this story is true.  After the mud-filled 1903 game ended prematurely in a 4-4 tie, the angry Michigan team was in such a hurry to leave Minneapolis, the left behind their silly jug.  A custodian gave it to the coach, and a legend was born.
THE VICTORY BELL. USC vs. UCLA.  First played: 1929. Overall record: Trojans lead, 46-29-7.  In the beginning, the two universities shared the same stadium, the LA Coliseum.  After scoring, each team proudly rang a large railroad bell, which was generously donated by Sothern Pacific.  However, when UCLA began playing home games in the Rose Bowl, they took the bell with them.  Today, the prized object is shared.

THE KEG OF NAILS. Louisville vs. Cincinnati.  First played: 1929. Overall record: Bearcats lead, 30-21-1.  Although these two schools are much better known for their basketball programs, we just had to mention the Keg of Nails.  See, the winner of this game is 'tough as nails,' so...

THE PAUL BUNYAN TROPHY. Michigan vs. Michigan State.  First played: 1898.  Overall record: Wolverines lead, 68-33-5.  Sure, it was wrong to put the University of Michigan on the list three times.  But we just adore this cute statue!


Tuesday, November 19, 2013



The Walt Disney Corporation will take a step closer to world domination in December of 2015.  That's the date when the Shanghai Disney Resort will officially open its doors.  Covering nearly 1,000 acres, it will cost $3.7 billion US dollars to construct.  When finished, the Disney Resort Shanghai will have the largest Sleeping Beauty Castle of any of the six Disney Destinations. 

You're asking yourself: Doesn't China already have a Disney Resort?  Correct!  Hong Kong Disneyland opened in 2005.  However, technically speaking, Hong Kong is still not part of China, per se.  Like neighboring Macao, these two areas are classified as Special Administrative Regions (SAR).  Chinese citizens cannot just enter into a SAR.  Special Visas are required and only a limited number of Chinese visitors can enter each year. 

Nonetheless, the immense resort has become amazingly lucrative, far exceeding expected results.  The Disney CEO, Bob Iger, knows this.  He understands that millions of Chinese citizens still visit Hong Kong Disneyland...despite the paperwork headache.  So, it only make fiscal sense to build another, even bigger, amusement park in the People's Republic of China itself. 

Next question: How does a Communist country allow such blatant private enterprise as a gigantic Disneyland?  Well, the Walt Disney Corporation technically only owns 43% of the Resort.  The remaining 57% is owned by the city government of Shanghai.  The questions keep coming:  How do people in Communist China even know about Disney?  Answer: They don't.  Everyone in the Western World grew up with the constant barrage of Disney cartoons, movies and merchandise.  However, an average Chinese citizen only vaguely knows of Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck.  During his frequent visits to China, CEO Iger noticed.   He says the new park will be "the best of Disney, but designed specifically for the people of China.

In conclusion, we here at the DUNER BLOG have mixed emotions towards the Shanghai Disney Resort.  On one hand, we fear the Disney corporation's worldwide takeover.  With $75 billion in total assets, it should be included in G20 talks!  On the other hand, we applaud the opening of mainland China to US business, investment and culture. For example, the City of Shanghai is holding an online vote as to which design the new Disneyland subway station would have.  Anyone can log on and select the design they like best.  However, we still can't see Chairman Mao visiting the Happiest Place on Earth...

Thursday, November 14, 2013



Next Friday, November 22nd, will be the 50th anniversary of the assassination of US President John F. Kennedy.  You won't miss it: There will be ample 24-hour news coverage, long-winded documentaries and a tasteless made-for-TV movie on Bravo.  However, we here at the DUNER BLOG want to express our salutations to the late, great president by reviewing our favorite JFK Memorials worldwide.

John F. Kennedy International Airport, New York City.  As the nation's largest handler of international air traffic, JFK is the new 'Ellis Island' of the USA, welcoming the world to the our nation.  Originally called Idlewild Airport, after the golf course it replaced, it was wisely renamed in 1964.

Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, Florida.  When opened in 1968, it was the largest structure in the world.  Today, it's fallen to fourth place in this category, but it's still steeped in history.  All manned space flights from NASA left from legendary Launch Complex #39.  This includes the all the Apollo Lunar missions as well as the Space Shuttle voyages.

The Fifty Cent Piece.  Although not widely used in circulation, the half dollar is still a totally awesome coin.  At 11.4 grams, it is also the heaviest.  Only three other presidents (Lincoln, Jefferson and Washington) have their portraits on US coins.

The USS John Kennedy, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  This aircraft carrier was originally intended to be a Kitty Hawk-class carrier, but it received so many special modifications it became its own, separate category of vessel.  'Big John' weighs 82,655 tons!

John F. Kennedy University, Pleasant Hill, California.  You know you're important when an entire university bears your name. 


John F. Kennedy Tunnel, Antwerp, Holland.  One of Europe's busiest tunnels connects the busy port with the main city.  It is for cars only and apparently has horrible rush hour traffic.

Kennedy Brücke, Vienna, Austria.  JFK famously met Soviet dictator Nikita Khrushchev in this European capital.   NOTE: It spans the Vienna...not the Danube...River.

Rua Kennedy, São Paolo, Brazil.  This broad boulevard bisects South America's largest city.  It connects Parça Kennedy with the Financial District.

Avenida JFK, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.  You can't get from the airport to downtown without traveling on this four-lane highway.


Kennedy Island, US Solomon Islands Territory.  It may only be two miles wide, but this isle is named in tribute to Big John.  Don't forget: JFK was also a veteran and war hero! 

Kennedy Mess Hall, University of Dayton.  We will never know why people in this small Ohio college decided to name the cafeteria after the former president.  Let's just hope they serve Boston Baked Beans!

JFK Tower, Cumberland Maryland.  JFK signed lots of legislation to help the poor.  Hence, it is only fitting to name a low-income housing project after him!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013



This week's blog is a lot like an episode from the old SUPER-FRIENDS cartoon show.  Here's the plot: Evil Lex Luther's darkness ray has plunged Gotham City into darkness day and night.  All seems lost until Superman gets an idea.  Holding a gigantic mirror, he flies high in the sky.  Then, the Man of Steel reflects enough sunlight to light Metropolis and saves the day.   Fantastic!

Believe it or not, goofy cartoons became reality last week in Norway.   See, the town of Rjukan was built in a steep mountain valley.  Long ago, this hidden location provided protection from savage Viking barbarian raids.  However, these days, the valley setting has become more of a curse.  During the lengthy Scandinavian winters, the town is pitch black for five months straight.  Yuck!

Not any more!  An insane idea, started by Sam Eyde over a hundred years ago, was revived and implemented.  Here's what happened: First, helicopters moved three 183-foot-high mirrors to the top of a nearby mountain, some 1,400 feet above the town.  Called heliostats, these enormous reflective structures are more commonly used in the Middle East for solar power.  Controlled remotely by computers, they follow the sun across the sky, projecting sunlight to the city below.  Ingenious!

Last Wednesday, they were finally put to test.  The residents of Rjukan gathered in the town square.  They had to wait a couple hours for the clouds to clear.  Then...BAM!...the downtown was drenched in precious sunlight.  The citizens erupted in delight, triumphantly waiving Norwegian flags and downing vodka shots.  The mayor cried as a local rock band cranked out the chorus to "Let The Sunshine In" by the Fifth Dimension.  Stupendous!

The future looks bright for the people of Rjukan.  "Before, when it was a fine day, you see blue sky above and know the sun was shining," explained Karin Roe, a local resident.  "But you could never see the sun.  It was very frustrating."  Scientists were also on hand.  They were astounded that the mirrors really worked.  The temperature of the city went up to 45 degrees Farenheit.  Hot damn!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013



It's an exciting week in Moscow, readers!!  The Miss Universe Beauty Pageant is in town!!  That means lots of lovely ladies...fancy evening gowns...pushy photographers and...tons of controversy!  In fact, there's so much hulla-baloo for this event, we here at the DUNER BLOG had to narrow it down to five items.  Here we go...

THE GAY HOST.  By far, the most talked about aspect of the Miss Universe Pageant involves Russia's recent anti-gay legislation.  This is bad news for co-host Thomas Rogers.  The little-known talk show host is openly gay.  Yet, he decided to "embrace dialogue" rather than boycott, like many of his peers.  Also, it's probably the only chance a small-time MSNBC reporter like Tom is going to get to make it big and get mentioned in high-profile news sources like the DUNER BLOG.

Miss Kosovo is banned!
THE VISA SNAFU.  Kosovo's entry, Mirjeta Shala is gorgeous.  Unfortunately, she will not be participating in this year's event.  Why?  Because the government of Russia does not recognize the sovereignty of the  nation of Kosovo.  Kosovans can only enter Russia with an Albanian or Serbian passport.  When Miss Kosovo refused to comply, her entry into the competition was terminated by authorities.  It's really a shame that someone so elegant is out of the running, just because Putin is buddy-buddy with Serbia. 

THE DISRESPECTFUL PHOTO SHOOT.  The reigning Miss Universe is Olivia Culpo.  As Queen, she has had a busy year of assignments and official visits.  For example: Last week, Miss Universe went to India.  First, she toured the notorious Tinar Jail in Old Delhi with local charities.  Later, she went to the Taj Mahal for a photo shoot.  Although covered from head-to-toe in compliance with Islamic dress codes, she did commit a major error:  She lifted her dress to display her shoes.  A police report has been filed in Agra to deal with the obscenity. 

Miss Myanmar is lovely.
THE NEWBIE & THE DICTATOR.  While some nations are banned from the event, others are attending for the first time.  Meet Miss Myanmar.  The last time Burma participated in the pageant was 1962.  Fifty years of military dictatorships is gone!  The champion is Moe Set Wine ( her real name).  She feels "like a soldier that is doing something for my country and people."  Unfortunately, she might reconsider returning home.  Prior to leaving Rangoon, she attended an event hosted by Nay Shew Thway Aung...the Grandson of a former Dictator Tham Shew.  This angered the current junta leaders.  Oops! 

Miss Australia is tall!!
THE SWIMSUIT CONTROVERSY.  As always, the event comes down to who looks best in a bathing suit.  As everyone knows, the ladies who wear one-piece outfits always lose to the bikinis.  That said, let's see who Las Vegas thinks will win this year.  Miss Philippines is the odds-on favorite at 5-1.   One look at her photo and you'll know why.  Miss Panama follows next at 7-1.  She's a good bet, as ladies from the Southern Caribbean have won more titles than any from other region.  Erin Brady of the US is third at 8-1.  Her 77,664 Twitter fans are a boost.  The hometown favorite, Miss Russia is next at 11-1.  Finally...we here at the DUNER BLOG like the fifth place hopeful, Miss Australia.  As the tallest entrant, she will look down on the rest of the competition.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013



In the 1950's, there was a popular Frankie Avalon song.  The chorus crooned: "Why must I be a teenager in love?"  It's corny, but true. Eventually, all kids start becoming amorous with each other.  It becomes an issue when they start expressing it.  Weather it's Annette Funicello with Frankie Avalon or teen idols Justin Timberlake and Britney Spears secretly dating each other, teenagers in love always sparks seems to spark some controversy.

It's time to jump back to the present.  This time, the two teenagers in love are age 14 and 15 from Nador, a small Northern town.  These two have a real bad case of puppy love, just like Frankie and Annette.  However, the year is 2013, not 1956.  Kids today don't trade skate-keys or exchange class rings anymore.  Nope, today's world is online.  Our two sweethearts posted a picture of themselves kissing on Facebook.  Wow!  That's a pretty serious commitment these days!

Anyhow, posting cute pictures on Facebook shouldn't really be a problem.  Unless...of course...you live in the Kingdom of Morocco.  When other Arab nations embraced last year's Arab Spring and took a chance at modernizing their societies, Moroccans instead took a step backwards. Elections in 2012 were decidedly won by the Islamic Justice Party.  This meant social laws are strictly enforced and our two teens were arrested last week.  They were charged with “violating public decency" as stated in Articles 483 and 484 in the Royal Penal Code.

Well, people in the magic kingdom of mint tea and hashish are coming out in droves in online support of their Arab Romeo and Juliet.  Things got even more serious last Saturday, when the nation's first ever KISS-IN occurred outside Parliament in the capital Rabat. Talk about racy!  As expected the anti-kissing contingency showed up as well.  Naturally, a brief scuffle ensued.  "Kissing in public is forbidden. A simple kiss can lead to other things. These are atheists who are acting against Islam,” proclaimed a jerk who has never been kissed. 

Unfortunately, it was hardly...you know...like... romantic.  While two thousand online folks said they would attend, only two dozen couples actually got enough courage together to smooch. It's hard to get cozy in front of police, journalists and pushy photographers.  Nonetheless, we here at the DUNER BLOG salute their devotion and their statement.  “Our message is that we are defending love, the freedom to love and kiss freely,” said one participant, Nizar Benamate.  Long Live Love!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013



Last week, a ship called the Nordic Orion accomplished what dozens of Europeans explorers have been attempting to do for 500 years.  The Danish-owned cargo ship sailed the elusive Northwest Passage above North America, thus connecting the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.  It was a bit dangerous around Baffin Island, where the cargo ship passed hull after hull of wrecked and frozen three-masted schooners from previous, failed expeditions.

Okay...we here at the DUNER BLOG made that last part up.  But we did so the make a point.  People have been trying to sail through the treacherous Northwest Passage for a long, long time.  From Henry Hudson in the 1500's to George Vancouver in the 1800's, many sailors have tried and/or died in vain.   But don't feel bad about John Cabot or Captain Cook.  The Nordic Orion's accomplishment last week has nothing to do with exploration and everything to do with Global Warming.

While people in the lower latitudes debate whether or not the Arctic Ice Shield is shrinking, people like Edward Coll think differently.  They know it is occurring.  As the CEO of Bulk Partners, (the owners of the famed cargo ship) Coll wanted to make history as well as save money.  Let's check out the stats.  The 73,500-ton load of coal traveled from Vancouver to Finland.  The shortcut through the Arctic Ocean shaved 1,500 nautical miles...about five days...off the voyage.  This meant a savings of nearly $200,000 in costs.  In addition, the ship was able to carry about 25 percent more coal since the depth of the Panama Canal is too shallow for such a heavy load.

But don't count on any fleets of cargo ships passing by Baffin Island anytime soon.  There are many, many complex issues and problems with making the Northwest Passage a heavily traveled route.  First of all, there is not a single port along the route.  If a ship has a mechanical failure, they are likely to meet the same fate as Henry Hudson.  (He was frozen alive.)  Environmentalists will remind us about the Selendang Ayu.  This Malaysian cargo ship lost power in 2004 and crashed on the Aleutian Islands, causing extensive damage.  Not to mention the touchy subject of Arctic sovereignty...

Rest assured, as long as there is a profit to be made, the Northwest Passage will become a viable shipping route in years to come.  However, the real winner in this whole debate, is the Arctic Ocean itself.  Always in the shadow of his bigger brothers, Pacific, Atlantic and Indian, life has been tough on the forgotten body of water.  It's true, the Arctic Ocean fails to appear on most maps.  Heck, neglected Arctic Ocean isn't even included in the Seven Seas!  Well, friends, those days will soon be over.  In  twenty years...when 15% more ice melts...the Arctic Ocean coastline will be dramatically different.  It will be dotted with thriving ports, cruise ships, and ...of course... a Hard Rock Café!  Just you wait...

Wednesday, October 9, 2013



Construction is underway in Laos on the Xayaburi Dam.  Laotian villagers watched in amazement. Hulking, immense Caterpillar Bulldozers leveled the once flourishing riverbanks.  It's true, nothing of this size has ever been built in the remote Southeast Asian nation.  As expected, Laotian Prime Minister Thongsing Thammavong was on hand for the opening ceremonies.  What a proud day!

Let's look at the numbers for the Xayaburi Dam.  The first dam ever constructed over the Lower Mekong River will cost $3.5 billion to complete.  Once built, it will produce 1,300 megawatts of energy.  (We here at the DUNER BLOG don't know what that means, but it sounds impressive!).  The face of the dam will be 32.6 meters (107 ft) high.  It needs to be 820 meters (2,690 ft) wide, as the Mekong is the 12th biggest river in the world.  In short, this is one massive project!

You're probably asking yourself: "What does tiny, poor Laos want a huge dam for?"  Good question.  The truth is: Laos doesn't need 1,300 Megawatts of power.  But neighboring Thailand sure does.  In fact a staggering 92% of the power produced by the Xayaburi Dam will go directly to Bangkok.  It's also funded by these same interests: The $4 billion is all organized by Thailand's four largest banks.

Your next question is: "Aren't environmentalists angry about damming the world's 12th longest river?" Another good question.  It turns out the World Wildlife Federation is highly skeptical of the "fish friendly turbines" championed by Poyry Engery Coorporation.  These babies had better work.  Around sixty million people upstream from the dam rely on the Mekong River for their food.  Unfortunately, this a very rural section of Asia, and these mountain folk are not exactly represented in any Congress.   Jian-Hua Meng, a WWF spokesman puts it more bluntly: "They are playing Russian Roulette with millions of people's lives.  This dam would not be acceptable in Europe, so why is it different in Asia?"  Another great question.

The reason why countries like Laos can get away with selling power to Thailand at the expense of their own people is simple: The Laotian military dictators in charge operate under the guise of being a 'Communist' nation.  This means they are somehow immune to international rules and regulations.  Other nations in this category include North Korea, Cuba and Burma.  These nations pretend to rule under a vague...yet highly moral...ideology.  Sadly, in reality, Presidents like Laos' Thammavong are just selfish despots who pocket money at the expense of their own people.  Such leaders have no place in our world in the year 2013.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013



We here at the DUNER BLOG just love new holidays.  Naturally, we spent last Thursday celebrating ARTHUR'S DAY.  Never heard of ARTHUR'S DAY?  This fete celebrates the birth date of Arthur Guinness in 1725.  To celebrate Ireland's (non) official national beverage, surprise concerts organized by the brewery take place in 815 pubs across the Emerald Isle.  And your first pint of Guinness is free.

"It's my favorite night of the year!" exclaimed David Doolan, 28, of Dublin.  "A musical treasure hunt." He's right.  The list of artists is quite impressive and varied.   Rock bands like Mumford & Sons, Snow Patrol and OK Go! take over tiny taverns for intimate concerts.  Down the road, dance mavericks like The Sugababes, Calvin Harris and Kelis turn a relaxed Pub into a loud Club Dude.  It's the the Coachella and Reading Festivals rolled into one!  What's not to love?

Plenty!  In fact, this year's ARTHUR'S DAY celebrations were met with a wave of protest nationwide.  See, many Irish citizens are tired of the drunkard stereotype of their culture.  Unfortunately, the corresponding statistics are not pretty.  Households in Ireland spend 8% of their income on booze. (They spend only 4% on clothing.)  Annually, the tiny Irish economy loses $5 billion in sick leave / hangover losses.  Ireland leads all European nations in cirrhosis / liver-related deaths.  Yikes!

However, after further research, we here at the DUNER BLOG have determined the real reason behind the ARTHUR'S DAY resentment.  A decade ago, the privately-owned Guinness Brewery was purchased by the huge, London-based beverage corporation Diageo.  Since the takeover, the marketing of the world's best selling stout has exploded.  There are now Guinness TV commercials, radio spots and billboards. ARTHUR'S DAY is another example.  The Irish Times called it a "pseudo-national holiday" to sell more beer.  No wonder people are mad!  It turns out, this holiday is a English gimmick, not an Irish tradition.

While both sides of the ARTHUR'S DAY debate have their merit, we here at the DUNER BLOG feel the real victim here is Mr. Arthur Guinness himself.  He was a great man who started with next to nothing and built the world's largest brewery.  He cared little about Irish / English hostility, nor did he know about modern day marketing gimmicks or statistics regarding alcoholism.  In fact, he was a great philanthropist who was honored by the Irish Government.  To demonstrate their respect, the lease for the St. James Guinness Brewery is for 10,000 years!  Let's not drag this great man's legend through the mud...

Wednesday, September 25, 2013



Last week, KATY PERRY notched her eighth #1 song when 'ROAR' topped the Billboard Singles chart.  This event set off a wave of debate at the DUNER BLOG.  Who has the most #1 songs of all time?  Is Katy close?  We conducted research.  It turns out she is #12 on the list.  Here is the Top Ten:

#1. BEATLES: 20 #1's Hopefully, the Fab Four will always top this list.  Their first #1 was "I Wanna Hold Your Hand" in 1964.  Their last was "The Long & Winding Road" in 1970.  To Pop Music fans, all their #1 songs are sacred.  While other bands have scored numerous but forgettable #1 hits, the average person can sing all twenty of the Beatles' songs.  NOTE: Paul McCartney has nine #1 hits with Wings and solo artist.

#2.  ELVIS: 18 #1's  The King was dethroned on this list by the Fab Four in 1968.  Like the Beatles, Elvis songs are an integral part of Americana.  For example, every kid starts singing "You Ain't Nothing But a Hound Dog" to the family pooch at age four.  Elvis worship then continues throughout the adult life.  NOTE: Even after death, Elvis came close to notching a posthumous #1 when a re-mix of "A Little Less Conversation" hit #4 in 2007.

#2.  MARIAH CAREY: 18 #1's  On thing is for certain: This songbird knows how to make a smash record.  An amazing 72% of her Top Ten hits go to #1.  They also stay there.  Her total of 79 weeks at #1 is more than anyone else.  NOTE:  This ranking has not gone to her head.  Said the Diva: "Elvis and the Beatles changed the world.  The Pop Music Industry is different today."

#3. MICHAEL JACKSON: 13 #1's  The King of Pop deserves his title.  In addition to his chart-toppers, MJ also has three dozen Top 10 hits.  He also wrote numerous #1s for other artists and has five additional #1 hits with the Jackson 5.  

#4. MADONNA: 12 #1's  Love her or hate her, MADONNA is a survivor.  While the Beatles crammed their 20 #1's into seven short years (3.1 #1's per year), the Material Girl is quite the opposite.  Her dozen top hits are spread out over nearly thirty years (0.4 #1's per year).  NOTE: Her full name is Madonna Louise Ciccone.

#4. SUPREMES:  12 #1's  While Martin Luther King gets much of the credit for the 1960's Civil Rights Movement, we here at the DUNER BLOG beg to differ.  We thank Diana, Florence and Mary for our racial equity.  These gals were talented elegant, sophisticated.  Oh yeah!  They happened to be black as well.  NOTE: Diana Ross had six more #1's as a solo artist.

#6.  WHITNEY HOUSTON:  11 #1's  When Whitney died last year, many people felt there were too many tributes and eulogies.  "Was she really that great?" they asked.  Being #6 on this list answers that question. 

#8.  STEVIE WONDER:  10 #1's  Little Stevie Wonder still holds the record for the youngest person ever to top the Pop Charts.  He was only 12 years old when 'Fingertips' went to #1 in 1962.  In addition, this musical genius has 10 Top Ten Albums and 22 Grammy Awards.

#8.  JANET JACKSON: 10 #1's   When people think of JANET JACKSON, they think of a very spiky nipple ring at the Super Bowl Halftime concert.  However, Michael's kid sister is much more than that.  She's sold 100 million albums worldwide. 

#10.  BEE GEES:  9 #1's  Many people forget just how large Disco's impact on humankind really was.  We here at the DUNER BLOG have not.  For us, the Disco Revolution was a spiritual rebirth of the mind, body and the Electric Slide.  NOTE: The Brothers Gibb also wrote four #1 songs for other artists, including Dolly Parton, Frankie Valli and kid brother Andy.

#10. ELTON JOHN: 9 #1's  This conversation took place in 1974: John Lennon: 'Elton, you're so big right now, if you sung an old Beatles song, I bet you it would go to #1.' Elton John: 'You're on!  How about I record Lucy & the Sky With Diamonds?' Guess what?  John Lennon won the bet.  The cover was Elton John's third #1 hit of 1974. 

Tuesday, September 17, 2013



First of all, we'd like to give a big THANK YOU to our loyal readers who wrote to the DUNER BLOG, begging us to cover this story.  It's true: This news item is TAYLOR MADE for us... 

It all began on a hot desert afternoon in the south of Egypt.  A man was strolling the banks of the River Nile.  He gazed idly at a flock of white storks, drinking and feeding in the water.  Suddenly, he noticed something strange:  One of the storks had a device strapped to its back!! Next, the suspicious man got on all fours and began pursuing the three foot-high winged creature.  Waiting, waiting, for just the right opportunity...the spry Egyptian lunged at the stork.  Gotcha! 

Menes the Pharaoh
The surprised bird made a desperate attempt to escape, but it was too late.  With some rope around his beak and legs, Menes (the name of this particular White Stork) was taken to the local police station for questioning. As expected, the stork did not answer any of the inspector's questions.  'What is this device on your leg?'  'Who sent you?' 'Where are you going?'  Nope, Menes just sat there, with a glazed look on his face.  He wasn't talking.  Unfortunately for Menes, they don't have trials in Egypt.  The innocent stork was instantly thrown in the slammer.  There, depressed bird sat, next to petty thieves and drug dealers.  His crime?  Espionage.  The evidence is attached to his back.

Fortunately, an inspector arrived from nearby Aswan.  He was able to translate the writing on the tracking devise: Property of U.K. Nature Conservancy.  He called the number and revealed Menes' true identity.  It turns out he was not carrying any secret messages for the US, Iran or even SPECTRE.  Nope, it turns out the stork was simply migrating.  While it's easy to laugh at the  assumption that a bird can be a spy, we must remember: The average Egyptian has only heard Mubarak/Morsi propaganda in the "news" for the last 20 years.  No wonder they assumed Menes was actually an evil alien planning to steal the Sphinx!

Unfortunately, the story of Menes does not have a happy ending.  Our stork was turned over to wildlife officials who released him into a nature reserve.  Menes flew straight back to a small island in the Nile.  There, he was captured by humans for a third time.  Only this time he wasn't caught by a Brit nor was it done by an Egyptian.  This time, Menes was caught by Nubian hunter, who ate the stork for dinner.  Meanwhile, the Nature Conservancy was by no means surprised.  Their statement: "We truly are saddened by the tragic end to Menes' journey, but once again, we would like to thank the park rangers of Aswan for their excellent initial efforts to get Menes the White Stork released safely."