Weekly insights into our crazy world.

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 CafĂ©!  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...