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.