Weekly insights into our crazy world.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

DEC 18 IS CUBA NOW OPEN FOR US TOURISM?

DEC 18 IS CUBA NOW OPEN FOR US TOURISM?

For American adventure travelers, yesterday's announcement that the US and Cuba would be resuming relations came as GREAT NEWS! We instantly began plotting our next vacation to the tropical isle of splendor. Not surprisingly, numerous readers also began plotting their next vacation, and sent us a slew of questions. So let's get started..

What happened yesterday in Washington? Pete, Pittsburgh. For the last year, Obama, Raul Castro and the Pope have been conducting secret meetings in Canada.  Yesterday's announcement that Cuba / USA relations were being restored was a culmination of these talks. When first elected, we here at the DUNER BLOG had high hopes for the Obama Administration's foreign policy with regards to the Third World. It took six years, but he is finally delivering on campaign promises.

Can I leave for Cuba tomorrow? Biff, New York. Don't pack those bag just yet, Biff! Since losing control of Congress, Obama has since relied heavily on executive orders to get things done. This is no exception. However, in order to lift the actual travel ban, we need Congressional approval. Sigh! Some Republicans, like Jeb Bush, have recently called for strengthening of the ban. Stay tuned..

Is Cuba ready for American tourists? Jim, Buffalo. Ready and willing, Jim! Since the fall of the USSR in 1991, financial aid to Cuba disappeared and the nation opened its doors to European and Canadian tourists. After getting the obligatory tourist card at the airport, visitors are free to explore the entire island. Except...of course...Guantanamo Bay. Last year, about two million tourists visited Cuba, which is slightly more than the totals for neighboring Jamaica.

How is the Travel Industry responding? Paul, Oakland. They are showing cautious optimism. "We look forward to the day...hopefully soon...when all Americans have the opportunity to travel to Cuba," said Orbitz CEO Barney Harford. Currently, JetBlue and American Airlines offer charter services for those industrious enough to fight through the paperwork. We see many more carriers joining soon. We are also hopeful that the famed Miami - Havana Ferry Service will resume after 55 years!

When will I be able to buy Cuban cigars and Havana Club Rum? Greg, San Jose. Finally...the most important question! Unfortunately, it will not be any time soon. Like the travel ban, resolutions involving trade will also require Congressional approval. We here at the DUNER BLOG encourage our readers to write to their representatives and demand the Cuba Ban be lifted now. Si se puede!



Thursday, December 11, 2014

DEC 11 PROPER ETIQUETTE FOR MEETING ROYALTY

DEC 11 PROPER ETIQUETTE FOR MEETING ROYALTY

At first, it seemed like any other photo op for LeBron James. Over the past decade, he has posed for thousands of pictures...and not just with basketball fans. He's been snapped with admiring politicians, famous movie stars, hip-hop heroes...even President Obama. However, this time, Big #23 was taking a photo with the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. LeBron made a huge faux pas when he put his arm around Kate Middleton. Instantly, British tabloids erupted. The Independent called it a "blatant disregard for protocol." The Guardian called it "gauche."

To help our readers avoid the same embarrassment suffered by LeBron, we here at the DUNER BLOG have some handy tips for meeting Royalty for the first time.

The Invitation.  First of all, the Queen doesn't invite people to events. She commands them to attend. Here's how the process works: You'll receive written correspondence from the proper staff member. The Lord Stewart of the Household oversees banquets. The Master of the Household handles funeral and memorial services, while the Lost Chamberlain organizes Garden Parties and Weddings. It will arrive via ROYAL MAIL.

Your Reply.   Don't send a text saying: C U then. According to Debrett's in London, your reply should be in this written form: "Sir Duner and Lady Godiva present their compliments to the Lord Chamberlain, and have the honour to obey her Majesty's command to the luncheon on April Second." NOTE: Do not refuse any command from the Queen. If you absolutely must decline, illness is the only acceptable excuse.

The Greeting.  When you approach royalty, men should bow and ladies should curtsy. Just make sure you do them correctly. A bow shall be "an inclination of the head, not from the waist." Likewise, the curtsy should be a "discreet but dignified bob." Both gestures should never be "prolonged or exaggerated." Needless to say, High Fives and Fist Pumps are not allowed.

Your Language.  When in the company of royalty, be sure to alter your vernacular. See, before you say anything to the Queen of England, you must always first employ her title: Your Majesty. Subsequent references use 'Ma'am' (rhymes with Pam). If you have to introduce your friend to a monarch, you say: "May I present Lord Disick, Your Majesty." You should always refer from shaking hands, kissing cheeks or touching any member of a Royal House.

Your Toast.  If your engagement with the Queen is going swimmingly, you might feel the need to raise a glass and toast her. Don't embarrass yourself with your usual toast: 'Over the lips; past the gums. Watch out stomach, here it comes! Chug!.' Nope, you'll impress her by first praying for silence, then announcing your intent to propose a Loyalty Toast. Be sure to name all royalty present by rank. Queen, Duke of Edinburgh, Prince of Wales, Duke & Duchess of Cambridge all require notice. If you're in Lancaster or the Channel Islands, different rules apply.

Your Departure.  Don't be like LeBron and run to the locker room. Have dignity and request permission to withdraw from the Duke. Then, thank them for allowing you in their presence. Finally, you must bow or curtsy appropriately, then leave.

See? You're all set. Next time royalty comes knocking, you'll be prepared!

Thursday, December 4, 2014

DEC 2 MOSES EXODUS MOVIE HAS ALL WHITE CAST

DEC 2 EXODUS: GODS & KINGS MOVIE HAS ALL WHITE CAST

It's still six days before the blockbuster EXODUS: GODS & KINGS hits theaters, but the film is already gaining a ton of publicity. Unfortunately for Twenty-First Century Fox, it's not the good type of hype. Specifically, many people are questioning the casting of an all white cast for the Biblical film. Here are the main characters: Christian Bale (born in Wales) is Moses. Joel Edgerton (an Aussie) is Ramses. Native New Yorker Sigourney Weaver is Tuya.

Things got worse for the promoters when 21st Century Fox owner RUPERT MURDOCH took to Twitter to defend his film. "Since when are Egyptians not white? All I know are." Within minutes, tens of thousands took to social media to lambaste the 83-year-old media mogul. ("He's so old, he probably knew the ancient Egyptians!" quipped one person.) For historians, this debate has been going on for centuries, without much resolution. We know for sure that Jesus did not have blond hair and blue eyes. Aside from that, however, there is little conclusion about the skin color of the ancient Egyptians and Hebrews.

To add to the debate, Hollywood cinematographers have a long history of having white people portray other ethnicities. From Al Jolson's black face to Mickey Rooney's horrendous Mr. Yunioshi, Hollywood has a chequered past when it comes to casting non-white roles. While TODAY it's rare to see white actors cast as Latinos, Blacks or Asians...for some reason...when it comes to the Middle East, things are different. For example: No one cared when Chicago-born Charleton Heston played Moses the first time around.

It seems times are changing. The current backlash against Murdoch is reminiscent of the rousting encountered when Californian Jake Gyllenhaal starred in the Disney film Prince of Persia. While both actors defended their roles, at least these two are positive images of the Middle Easterners. For the most part, Arab terrorists have replaced Nazi generals and Soviet spies as the top villains in today's blockbusters. This part of the world has a long road ahead in terms of pop culture acceptance.

The final say in the debate comes to us from the pragmatic director Ridley Scott. When asked his opinion, he brought up the point that the only famous actor from Egypt is Omar Sharif. "I can't mount a film of this budget, where I have to rely on tax rebates in Spain, and say that my lead actor is Mohammad so-and-so. I'm just not going to get it financed." Ridley is right. At the end of the day, some movies are just about entertainment...not social statements. So head to the IMAX next weekend for fun!



Tuesday, November 25, 2014

NOV 25 AUSTRALIA DOES NOT BELIEVE IN GLOBAL WARMING

NOV 26 AUSTRALIA DOES NOT BELIEVE IN GLOBAL WARMING

Last week's G20 Summit in Sydney was a complete and utter mess. Let's review. First, French President Francois Hollande insisted his new mistress be present at all private meetings. (Awkward!) Then, Japanese Prime Minister Abe and Chinese Premier Xi got in a drunken brawl over nothing. As usual, Putin stormed off two days early in disgust, angry his sovereignty claims to Poland were denied. The Summit ended with Angela Merkel publicly shaming all of her peers for their unprofessional behavior.

Lost in all the drama of the G20 Summit was the disappointing delay in Climate Change Resolutions. Nineteen of the G20 nations signed various pledges. Each action was designed to address each nation's needs. For example, the US will spend $3 billion to a new organization, while Germany and France gave $1 billion to the UN. Likewise, Japan will invest a billion dollars in green research. Even China agreed to 26% cuts by the year 2020. But one country refused any help whatsoever: The host nation Australia.

"Australia needs to know that Global Warming does not stop in the South Pacific Ocean," quipped German President Merkel. "It effects the entire planet." However, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott begs to differ. He gained high office last year with election promises to cut carbon taxes. With donations pouring in from mining and coal giants, he won national elections to become Australia's 28th Prime Minister. Even Chevron donated to Tony's campaign.

Now Prime Minister Abbott is keeping his word. With the world's most powerful leaders gathered on his doorstep, he stood alone and cast the lone "NAY" vote. The truth is Tony truly doesn't believe in Global Warming.  Let's review his infamous quote on the matter: "It's crap. A left wing conspiracy to de-industrialize the world." Abbott's mentor, Party chair Maurice Newman took it a step further, chastising the "Global Warming priesthood of 'scientists' and their misguided religion." Polls indicate most Aussies agree with this stance.

We here at the DUNER BLOG are not scientists. But we do know for a fact the existence of human-caused climate change. We also believe in playing it safe. If one form of energy is proven to be cleaner than another...by all means...let's use it. Nations need to make adjustments and start switching from coal to natural gas, solar or wind power. Aussies need to understand that Merkel is right...Global Warming is every one's problem. So please, get your head out of the sand, Prime Minister Abbott!

 

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

NOV 19 ROMAN COLOSSEUM TO BE RENOVATED?

NOV 19 ROMAN COLOSSEUM TO BE RENOVATED?

Rome is abuzz about a new proposal from Italy's Culture Minister,  Dario Franceschini. Believe it or not, but he has backed a proposal to rebuild the Colosseum in Rome and convert it to a modern arena. As expected, a tidal wave of cultural backlash has engulfed the capital. "It needs to remain an icon!' shouted professor Giorgio Croci. He believes restoring the crumbling ruin to a usable venue is "beneath its dignity."

Really, Giorgio? Who are you to define what dignity means to a marble building? Let's review the facts. Roman Emperor Vespasian ordered the construction of the Flavian Amphitheater in the year 70 AD. The previous year had seen four emperors executed, and Vespasian was eager to please his angry constituency. Fortunately, he knew what exactly what Rome desperately needed: Bread and Circuses. His first order of business was to build a 65,000 stadium in the center of the city...the largest in the empire.

Vespasian chose a site just next to the Colossus of Nero statue. At 103 feet tall, the bronze behemoth was about the same size as the Statue of Liberty. For the Inauguration Games of the new stadium, excess was in order. Six thousand wild animals were killed. In addition to the native bulls, boars and oxen, emperors imported lions, tigers and elephants from Africa...because it's more fun to kill a bigger beast! Over time, the Flavian Dynasty fell out of favor, but the stadium kept on going. People starting calling the Amphitheater The Colosseum, because it was behind Nero's Colossus Statue.

Why bring this up? Because we think Professor Croci has forgotten about the Inaugural Games and the reason why the Colosseum was built in the first place: To entertain the masses. When the barbarians finally toppled Rome in 476 AD, they melted down the Nero statue but left the Amphitheater intact. For the next thousand years, it still housed gladiator fights and religious services. The end of the fun came suddenly in the year 1349. A major earthquake destroyed a third of the structure, and it was never used for entertainment again.

Fast forward to the year 2014. Finally, someone has the common sense to propose Rome uses their most famous building for what is meant to do: Host grand events. People didn't have the money or the resources to re-construct it after the 14th century quake...but they do now! AC Roma has asked for it to be used for soccer. The Teatro dell'Opera wants to bring La Traviata to the famed stage. The pop music band One Direction could sell it out in minutes! However, we here at the DUNER BLOG want to take it a step further. Let's have the soccer team, the prima-donnas and the Boy Band fight each other gladiator-style! Now THAT'S entertainment...




Thursday, November 13, 2014

NOV 10 TOP FIVE THANKSGIVING MYTHS

NOV 10 TOP FIVE THANKSGIVING MYTHS

Ask any American about the Thanksgiving Holiday, and you'll hear the same story: It commemorates a feast between English Pilgrims and the Native Americans. Unfortunately, the real facts surrounding the first Thanksgiving are quite different than what Americans learn in Elementary School. Fortunately, we here at the DUNER BLOG are here to help you sort this mess out.

MYTH #1. The Pilgrims first landed at Plymouth Rock. Here's what actually happened. In 1741, construction of a wharf in Plymouth Harbor began. Suddenly, a 94-year old man named Thomas Faunce arrived and demanded all building be immediately halted. See, Faunce knew the precise boulder where the famed Pilgrims had landed 121 years prior. The new pier was being built directly on top of this sacred rock. Although many doubted the old man's memory, the wharf was moved 200 yards away to appease him.  NOTE: Plymouth Rock's geologic name is Dedham Granodiroite.

MYTH #2. Turkey was the main course of the feast. Sorry, but turkeys were not found on Cape Cod at the time. Likely, they ate waterfowl...like geese and duck...and perhaps venison. Sweet potatoes were also not yet found in North America. Cranberries are native to the region, but people don't normally eat them without sugar, which was not available. Pumpkins and squash, however, were on the table. Historians know for sure they were plentiful and were consumed daily.

MYTH #3. Thanksgiving is named after this event. Wrong! The term Thanksgiving was first used in 1637 by Massachusetts Bay Governor John Winthrop. But it was not in reference to a feast in Plymouth years prior. Rather, it commemorated a gruesome pre-dawn raid of a Pequot village in Connecticut when defenseless people were shot, clubbed and burned alive. "A day of Thanksgiving, thanking God that they had eliminated over 700 men, women and children." Gov. Winthrop declared. "This day forth shall be a day of celebration and thanksgiving for subduing the Pequots."

MYTH #4. Abraham Lincoln officially decreed a peaceful holiday in 1864. Sure, Lincoln did push the legislation through Congress, but it was hardly peaceful. The next day, he also signed legislation to exterminate a Sioux colony in Minnesota. At least George Washington got it correct...kinda.  His Thanksgiving Day Proclamation in 1789 officially set aside only one day a year for the holiday. This was because Americans were having Thanksgiving feasts after every slaughter, and this meant dozens of frenzied feasts every year.

MYTH #5. After the first Thanksgiving, Pilgrims and Indians lived happily ever after. The truce did not last long. War erupted two years later and the natives lost. The chief was decapitated. His head decomposed on a pole in Plymouth for the next 24 years. Smallpox from English cattle decimated 90% of the Wampanoag population, which was almost extinct by 1632. Since then, the Wampanoag have lived a marginalized existence in the shadows of prosperous New England. 2,000 of them can be found on a reservation today.






Tuesday, November 4, 2014

NOV 4 TOP TEN SILLIEST NATIONAL FLAGS

NOV 4 TOP TEN SILLIEST NATIONAL FLAGS

Last Wednesday, New Zealand's Prime Minister JOHN KEY made it official: His nation will vote next year on a referendum to change their flag. He wants to ditch the Union Jack and replace it with a fern leaf, which "better reflects our status as a modern, independent nation." (Psst: We heard that the PM was overheard on a flight mention that he is sick of hearing how similar New Zealand's flag is to Australia's.) But whatever his motivation, we here at the DUNER BLOG salute Mr. Key. It's always great to question national flags, anthems and coats-of-arms. Here are ten other flags that also need replacing:

BELIZE.  This looks more like an album cover for THE VILLAGE PEOPLE than a national flag. Even the national motto songs like a pop song: 'Sub Ambra Florea' is Latin for 'I flourish in the Shade.' Also confusing is the cricket paddle. How can you play cricket under a tree?

BOSNIA. Introduced in 1998, this flag has a political agenda. Bosniaks, Croats and Serbs are united as the three sides of the yellow triangle. In hopes of becoming more than just a 'potential candidate country,' the shade of blue is exactly the same as the shade on the EU flag. The stars are meant to be "infinite in number," meaning there can be many more EU members coming...


CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC.  When President Boganda unveiled this flag in 1958, he explained the symbolism. "France and Africa march together" is the theme, so the French tri-color is included with African green (hope) and yellow (tolerance). The vertical red stripe symbolizes "the blood people will spill to protect the nation." Yuck!

KYRGYZSTAN.  Although it looks like a giant volleyball, the center of the Kirghiz flag is actually the sun. The stripes are a 'stylized representation of a yurt dwelling.' You'll notice exactly forty rays of sunlight to acknowledge the forty tribes that united to defeat the Mongols in the 1300's.

MOZAMBIQUE. Did the guys from Grand Theft Auto design this flag? Well...to clarify...the AK-47 is meant to symbolize the defense of the African nation. The book represents education, the hoe is for agriculture and the star is for Marxism. Together, they make up the most gansta flag in the world.

NEPAL.  Trivia time! The only non-rectangular national flag in the world is Nepal. See, the triangles reflect the Himalayas. A blue border of peace frames the sun and the moon. Like Nepal, they will be around forever. Unfortunately, when the Nepalese flag blows in the wind, it looks like vandals ripped it to shreds.

ST. LUCIA.  Once you understand that the blue is the ocean and the two triangles represent the twin volcanoes on the Caribbean island nation, this flag makes sense.  To those who do not know this tidbit, this flag looks more like the Star Trek Enterprise insignia. Or maybe SPECTRE from the James Bond movies?


SWAZILAND. A proud shield and sharp spears show strength and protection against enemies. The black and white color scheme means that black and white people can live together in Swaziland. Finally, the three royal tassels are 'tinjobos' or royal seals. We feel sorry for Swazi elementary school kids on Arts & Craft Day when they have to draw this complicated mess!

TURKMENISTAN. Sorry, Swaziland, but the world's most intricate flag comes from Turkmenistan. The five carpets on the left are from the five main tribes of the Central Asian nation. The wreath hints at their harmony together. While the idea is admirable, the blur of this colorful flag when waving in the wind induces nausea and causes citizens to vomit.

UNITED STATES.  Overly busy and out-of-date, the USA needs a new flag as well. When was the last time the original thirteen colonies were of any relevance? With 50 stars, aren't we discouraging any new states? According to the Second Continental Congress, who adopted this geometric mess, the stars were originally meant to symbolize 'a new constellation.' Which group of stars are we talking about?



Tuesday, October 28, 2014

OCT 29 THE STRANGE STORY OF DOMINICA'S MOUNTAIN CHICKEN FROG

OCT 29 THE STRANGE STORY OF DOMINICA'S MOUNTAIN CHICKEN FROG

Before humans arrived on the Caribbean island of Dominica, frogs were on top of the food pyramid. They ate everything. In addition to crickets, centipedes and flies, frogs also devoured snakes, birds and even other frogs. One species, the Leptodactylus Fallax, emerged as the ultimate predator on the small isle. With no competition in the rainforests, the gluttonous creature evolved into the largest species of frog on earth. It is a foot long and weighs up to three pounds. It is only found on the islands of Dominica and Montserrat.

Everything changed in the year 1493 when Christopher Columbus arrived. It was a Sunday, so the island was named 'Dominica' (Sunday in Latin). However, it would not be Europeans who would settle the idyllic isle. Rather, it was populated by African laborers who worked in the sugar plantations. These hungry people soon discovered the amazing frog. They called it "mountain chicken" because it was found in the high hills and tasted like...chicken! (Apparently, the frog's mating call also sounds like a chicken's cackle.) When the island became an independent nation, fried frog legs was proclaimed the national dish.

Interested? Here's how you make Mountain Chicken. First, remove the skin from the legs and toss the rest of the frog away. Then, wash with lime and season with garlic, pepper and thyme. After two hours, roll in flour and fry in vegetable oil until golden brown. Serve with white rice and peas. Two frog legs should be good for four people. Oops! We got ahead of ourselves. We forgot to mention that over-hunting of the species landed it on the endangered list. Hunting of the frog was banned on Dominica in 1993.

While the numbers stabilized, another threat to the Mountain Chicken Frog emerged in 2002. Chytridomycosis is a fungal disease that has decimated amphibians worldwide. Within a couple of years, the population of mountain chicken had dwindled to 8,000. That's when drastic measures were taken. A team from the Royal Zoological Society descended onto the island. They captured the frogs and took them to laboratories in London. For the last twelve years, they have been rehabilitated and regenerated. Most importantly, the amazing amphibians have built up a resistance to the deadly chytrid fungus.

Last Saturday, fifty-one frogs were flown from London to Dominica. They were carefully released into the wild and look forward to a long life. The residents of Dominica have been educated as to the plight of their national dish. The hunting of mountain chicken is no longer practiced. While the locals are saddened at the loss of their national dish, they understand the rationale. Hopefully, the Mountain Chicken can regroup and once again live on the top of the food chain in Dominica. And maybe they'll be enough frog legs to eat..








Thursday, October 23, 2014

OCT 23 POPE FRANCIS RENTS OUT SISTINE CHAPEL FOR PRIVATE PARTY

OCT 23 POPE FRANCIS RENTS OUT SISTINE CHAPEL FOR PRIVATE PARTY

Talk about an evening to remember! It began with a private concert featuring the choir from the Accademia di Santa Cecilia. Since 1585, they have dazzled Romans with their symphonic brilliance. Next, guests were served fancy cocktails and light refreshments. Then, a formal gala dinner was served by tuxedo clad waitstaff. While this may seem like a common evening in the Italian capital, the setting on Saturday night was unbelievable. This event took place in the Sistine Chapel under Michelangelo's famous frescoes.

See, this is the first time in the 541 year history of the famed chapel that it has been rented out for a private event. The Sistine was built by the forward-looking Pope Sixtus IV. He envisioned a stupendous 'House of God' to serve as the primary center of worship for the clergy of the Holy See. To accomplish his dream, the Pope rounded up the most innovative artists of the day. Botticelli, Raphael and Michelangelo were summoned to Rome to create an artistic masterpiece. They succeeded. A visit to the Sistine Chapel is truly unforgettable.

Oops. Back to Saturday's party. Here are the details. Forty wealthy members of the Porsche Travel Club paid five thousand Euros each for the honor to attend. Papal authorities did not disclose the amount the luxury car company paid to rent the world famous building, but it did announce where these profits were going. Monsignor Paolo Nicolini told reporters "The Pope's charity projects with the poor and homeless" would recieve all of Porsche's donations.

While many are cheering Pope Francis and his 'Robin Hood' tactics of taking from the wealthy to give to the needy, historians are concerned. The bottom line is that leasing out sanctified structures for money is a touchy subject. It reminds us of when Pope Leo X routinely administered 'indulgences' in return for monetary support. This is what started the whole Reformation. A church that could be bought is not holy.

For the time being, the Papacy is not planning any more private parties in the Sistine Chapel. But stay tuned for more 'Action from the Vatican' coming soon to the DUNER BLOG. In his first twenty months as pope, Francis has lived up to his moniker as the "People's Pope.' Such unfathomable issues as homosexuality, priest celibacy, abortion and birth control have all been part of the dialogue. His goal of modernizing the antiquated institution is much needed. We just hope none of the Renaissance frescoes get damaged in any upcoming "Papal Raves"

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

OCT 14 BAN ON SWISS COWS WEARING BELLS

OCT 14 BAN ON SWISS COWS WEARING BELLS

There is nothing like a vacation in Switzerland! Breath taking hiking trails are plentiful. They zigzag from lush meadows to steep cliffs, offering the visitor Alpine splendor at every turn. See, in Switzerland, the peaks are higher, the lakes are larger and the rivers are faster. However, one item will soon be missing from this spectacle. The famed cows of Switzerland are loosing their bells.

A groundbreaking study on dairy cows at Zurich's Federal Institute has the entire nation questioning one of their beloved traditions. It found that the enormous bells worn around their necks emit a tone ranging from 100 to 113 decibels...which is equivalent to a chainsaw at full blast! This far exceeds the Swiss legal sound limit of  85 decibels. As a result, most bovines suffer hearing loss and many are deaf altogether. Also, the 12-pound iron bells impede grazing habits. Cattle without bells eat 25% more grass and are healthier.

The study is a big win for animal rights groups in Switzerland. “We didn’t need long university research to tell us that the bells are not beneficial to cows,” quipped activist Lolita Morena. See, cows in flat places like Texas don't need bells to be located. But in the steep, foggy Alps, they are considered a necessity. Plans to equip bovines in GPS devises would solve the problem. This means farmers will just have to spend a bit more time finding their cows in bad weather. "It’s difficult work... but they chose it,” explained the unsympathetic Morena.

So will cowbells disappear from the Swiss Alps? "Nicht so schnell," say the farmers. They stress the traditional role the bells play in Swiss society. In medieval times, the size of a bell signified the best milk producing cow. It received the honor of wearing the largest one. For the farmers, the elaborate, ornate bells are a source of pride. There are even Bell Festivals. In the Alpaufzug Festival, boys ring cowbells in the streets. Folklore says the sound rids the pastures of evil spirits and makes the grass grow faster.

While we here at the DUNER BLOG cherish folk tales, we do side with the Cow Bell Ban. Since one in every ten people in Switzerland is a millionaire (the highest ratio in the world) they can afford to put GPS chips and implement more humane practices. Even the Swiss Tourism Bureau agrees. "It's hard to imagine Switzerland without cowbells. " explained spokesman VĂ©ronique Kanel, lamenting that an era has passed. Yet she knows that the cowbell is only a small fraction of the wonders of the famed nation, and understands that "animal welfare is paramount.

NOTE: No word yet on whether the Swiss will ban the Saint Bernard Rescue dogs from carrying canisters of brandy around their necks. Don't worry! The DUNER BLOG will inform you of any such legislation.


Tuesday, October 7, 2014

OCT 8 FAQ's ABOUT THE UMBRELLA REVOLUTION

OCT 8 FAQ's ABOUT THE UMBRELLA REVOLUTION

Lots of readers from around the globe have submitted questions about the Umbrella Revolution in Hong Kong.  Let's get started.

Why umbrellas? Does it rain a lot in Hong Kong? - Yulia, Kiev.  It pours around the South China Sea. About 100 inches every year. But it's not water that calls for the protesters to don umbrellas. They're meant to deflect tear gas and pepper spray. However, protest leaders are not too fond of the name. They say the movement is about civil disobedience, not revolution.

Why is it also called 'Occupy Central'? - Henri, Lyon. When the Occupy Movement spread across the planet three years ago, each city had a different moniker. In Hong Kong it was called Occupy Central, after the drab name used for the Financial District. On October First, this group launched another sit-in. They were joined by two student groups, Scholarism and the Federation of Students. Together, over 100,000 people have joined the cause.

How long was Hong Kong democratic before 1997? - Ahmed, Dubai. Never! The irony about the protests is that the current system is actually more democratic than British rule. For 155 years, all 28 governors were directly appointed from London. Today, half of the government is selected by oligarchs, bankers and government officials. The other half is elected by the general public. Chris Patten, the last British governor, coined the term "One Country; Two Systems." However, neither system is democratic.

How does Mainland China feel about the Umbrella Revolution? - Frank, Leeds. The People's Republic of China is most displeased. While colonial Hong Kong didn't have elections, they did enjoy other freedoms.  They had fair courts, common law and an independent press. None of these are allowed in Beijing. If Hong Kongers win the right to choose their own leader, a scary precedent would start. Tienanmen Square protests could begin anew.

Does everyone in Hong Kong support the movement? - Judy, Toronto. Opinion polls..from the same university where the movement started..show meager hometown support for the Umbrella Revolution. Only 15% of Hong Kong residents strongly support the students.  A whopping 45% of Hong Kongers disapprove. Older residents wish younger citizens would concentrate on work and family. Instead, they insist on causing traffic problems and blocking the entrances to department stores.

Can you compare the Umbrella Revolution to the Arab Spring? Dan, Dallas. The movements are very similar. They start with large numbers of unemployed...yet technologically savvy...youths. Next, they organize under the always popular banner of Democracy Now! Worldwide media outlets adore empathizing with the underdog, and presidents and rock stars rally around their cause. Let's just hope the Umbrella Revolution ends better than the movements in Egypt, Tunisia and Ukraine. After the cameras leave, the poverty just increases!









Tuesday, September 30, 2014

SEPT 30 LIST OF DEREK JETER'S RETIREMENT GIFTS

SEPT 30 LIST OF DEREK JETER'S RETIREMENT GIFTS

Sunday marked the end of baseball's regular season. One of the game's greats, DEREK JETER, lined a solid single to left field for his last and final at-bat. See, the beloved Yankee shortstop is retiring after 20 seasons and 3,465 hits. A fan favorite nationwide, the Minnesota Twins thought it would be nice to honor Derek with a parting gift. So, back in July, they gave him the actual second base used in the stadium. It got TONS of media coverage, so every other team Jeter played against for the rest of the season also gave him parting presents. Here is the complete list:

BALTIMORE ORIOLES: The home of fried seafood, the folks in Maryland proudly presented Derek with an enormous basket of crabs. He ate one, put on a US Navy Captains' hat and waved to the cheering crowd.

BOSTON RED SOX: As the Yankee's hated rival, Boston only gave Derek something to avoid bad press for not following suit. While LL Bean boots are nice, he did much better in other cities.

CHICAGO CUBS: As a National League team that never makes the playoffs, Jeter only played a handful of games in Wrigley Field. Nonetheless, he received the #2 board from the famed scoreboard.

CHICAGO WHITE SOX: While most teams gave a gift that represents their city, the White Sox gave the famed Shortstop a bench made entirely from Major League bats. Different!

CINCINNATI REDS: Since the Reds have two Gold Glove shortstops as well, they gave Derek jerseys from legends Dave Concepcion and Barry Larkin.

CLEVELAND INDIANS: The home of the Rock 'N' Roll Hall of Fame presented Mr. Jeter with a Yankee pinstriped Gibson Les Paul electric guitar.

DETROIT TIGERS: Derek loved Tiger Stadium; he grew up in Michigan. He was particularly pleased to receive two of the folding chairs from the original park.

HOUSTON ASTROS: Jeter loves to golf, so he was all smiles when the General Manager handed him a new set of clubs.

LOS ANGELES ANGELS: This gift was the silliest. A twelve foot-high Hobie Surfboard with the Yankee Pinstripes and logo on the top. Derek doesn't even like to swim!

MILWAUKEE BREWERS: Again, golf. The Brewers gave Derek an over-sized check good for a round at the famed Whistling Straits Golf Course.

NEW YORK METS: The Yankees opponent in the cross-town Subway series, the Mets gave Derek a mosaic using the iconic New York subway tiles.

OAKLAND A'S: Of all the gifts, Derek likely enjoyed the bottle of 2009 Abreu Madrona Ranch Cabernet the most.  He drank it right after the game.

ST. LOUIS CARDINALS: This gift is the most classy. Gold cuff links embossed with Stan "The Man" Musial's number six.

SEATTLE MARINERS: As the site of Jeter's first ever Major League game, the ceremony was a bit more emotional. They gave him the Second Base pad he reached on his first hit.

TEXAS RANGERS: Former President George W. Bush handed him Pinstriped boots and a Cowboys hat to match. He looks much better in a baseball cap.

TORONTO BLUE JAYS: This winter, Derek will be hitting the slopes in the Canadian Rockies. The Blue Jays gave him lift tickets to Banff and a top-notch condo as well.

AND FINALLY: The Duner Blog wishes to thank the KANSAS CITY ROYALS, MILWAUKEE BREWERS and the PITTSBURGH PIRATES for just making donation to Derek Jeter's charity instead of giving him a basket of fried clams...