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!