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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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 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 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 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 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.
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.
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 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.
ücke, 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!
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!
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!|
|Miss Myanmar is lovely.|
|Miss Australia is tall!!|
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!
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.
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...
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!
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.
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?
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.
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. 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.
#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.
#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.
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|