Weekly insights into our crazy world.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014



Tick - Tock.  Time is running out for Brazil.  The World Cup starts in a mere fifty days.  Are you ready, Brazil?  The first match between you and Croatia is scheduled to start at four o'clock on June 13th in São Paolo.  Is the brand-new stadium ready?  Will you be able to handle the 100,000 angry protesters? Will you team win as your former president promised?

Sorry...we need to slow down here at the DUNER BLOG.  Let's just examine the three most important issues:

Unfinished Stadiums.  When your nation gets selected to host a World Cup, you take orders from FIFA, the international body that controls soccer.  This group issues a strict schedule that must be adhered to. See, FIFA demands that a dozen massive stadiums are built, as well as supporting infrastructure like hotels, transport, etc.  As of today, nine of the twelve arenas are up and ready to go.  São Paulo and Porto Alegre are close.  The last arena is deep in the Amazon rain forest and it has been difficult getting supplies...like foam fingers...to the remote location.  But don't worry...FIFA head Sepp Blatter is calm and is "confident in Brazil's work."

Security.  Minutes after Sepp's announcement back on March Third 2003 that Brazil would be hosting the World Cup, protesters stormed onto the streets.  They demanded the government build homes for the poor instead of stadiums for the wealthy. (And Brazilians only trail Greeks in terms of passionate political protest.)   Desperate to quell unrest, particularly in Rio and São Paolo, officials have a simple, yet effective plan: Send in the army and seal off the favelas for two months.  All seemed calm until last week, when a flamingo dancer was accidentally killed by police.  The only thing Brazilians love more than soccer is samba, and riots ensued.  However, within hours, the tourist zones were cleared and the Impanema Metro Station was re-opened.

Can Brazil Win? While Brazil should be worrying about the above two issues, all people really care about is the trophy.  Currently, odds makers have the home team as the favorite, followed by hated rivals Argentina and Germany.  We here at the DUNER BLOG are tabbing Spain to upset.  They are the defending champs, La Liga is by far the best league in the world and their roster is loaded with stars.  We're talking Xavi Hernandez, David Villa, Iker Cassillas, Gerard Pique and Shakira.

In summary, we here at the DUNER BLOG agree with FIFA and have complete confidence with Brazil's abilities to host an event as huge as the World Cup.  We also disagree with the protesters. Major sporting events do boost your nation's image overseas. With the Olympics coming to the nation two years from now, look for foreign investment to come pouring in, as the world will understand the value of this amazing country.

We can't wait for the WORLD CUP to start!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014



We here at the DUNER BLOG pride ourselves on delivering uplifting, feel-good stories to our readers. This week, we head to South Florida for such an item.  Last week, ambitious botanists announced their incredible Million Orchid Project.  Their goal is to reforest Dade County with native orchids.   See...a long time ago...when American homesteaders first began settling in Miami 150 years ago, South Florida was an orchid paradise. Back then, the shores of Biscayne Bay were covered in forests of oak and mahogany trees.  Orchid vines and trestles blanketed every branch, making the area awash in in bright colors.

Things changed dramatically on April 15, 1896.  That's when the Florida East Coast Railroad officially opened service to Miami.  Hungry entrepreneurs flocked from the Eastern Seaboard cities to Florida.  The simplest of get-rich-quick schemes involved harvesting wild orchids from the trees.  Once potted, they were quickly transported to florists in New York, Philly and Boston for sale.  Unfortunately...much like the gold in California...within a mere twenty years, all the natural resources had depleted.  Today, it is nearly impossible to find a wild orchid growing in Dade County.

All seemed lost...Until the Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden stepped in!  These bitchen botanists came up with an fantastic plan to reintroduce orchids to Miami.  As everyone knows, orchids are a notoriously slow-growing plant.   Hence, this is a five year plan.  It begins in the greenhouses. Standard micro-propigation techniques are used to grow seedlings.  After 24 months, they are finally large enough to transplant into containers.  A year later, they are strong enough to be formally transplanted outside.    It takes great skill to attach one to tree branches.  It takes great diligence to monitor a stubborn orchid, so the botanists visit plants regularly for the last year.

You're asking yourself:  Isn't this a lot of work?  How can a handful of gardeners repopulate all of Dade County with a million native orchids?  Glad you asked!  In fact, this is the brilliant part of the Fairfield Plan: As you know, Miami has lots of unemployed, inner-city youths.  Even the smallest of stipends is welcome. Working in conjunction with public schools, a large nature corps has been formed.  The kids man every part of the operation, from the tiny seeds in the lab to climbing the limbs of trees to attach vines.

See?  How often do you get to read a story about rejuvenating an endangered species, bringing colorful flowers to the inner-city and unemployed youths getting jobs...all in the same blog?  That's what we're here to do at the DUNER BLOG!  One last thing:  The scientific names of the two orchids that are being re-introduced to Miami are: Butterfly Orchid (Encyclia Tampensis) and Cowhord Orchid (Cryptodium Punctatum). Rock on, Million Orchid Project!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014



Yesterday, every one's favorite Royal, Kate Middleton, completed her Official Tour of the Southern Pacific with an exhausting fortnight in New Zealand.  While we couldn't possibly chronicle all the amazing accomplishments of the the Duchess, here are seven stops we thought you'd want to know more about:

Kate Visited a War Memorial.  When Royalty visit a new place, the first stop is to always to a cemetery or war monument.  Once there, the princess is escorted to a special place.  Then, she bows her head solemnly for ten minutes. Finally, she lays a ceremonial wreath on a grave.  Hence, Kate's first stop in New Zealand was the War Memorial and Clock Tower in Blehnheim. She looked great in a smart, powder blue Alexander McQueen dress and coat.

Kate Drinks Wine. Lately, British tabloids have been speculating that Kate is preggers with another baby.  These rumors were squashed yesterday, when the Duchess visited Amisfield Vienyard.  She quaffed down a couple glasses and happily stated: "I'm really enjoying being able to drink wine again after having Baby George!" NOTE: She drank a 2011 Pinot Noir.

Kate Played Cricket. In Christchurch, the Royal Couple paid a visit to the Royal Cricket Club.  This is important, because New Zealand is hosting the World Cup in 2015.  While there, she played an 'impromptu' match against William.  We here at the DUNER BLOG are not savvy about Cricket terminology, but she "bowled one off stamp and managed to strike it to mid off."  As you might know, Kate is extremely athletic and can even play volleyball in heals!

Kate Went River Rafting.  Some of the best rapids in the world are found in New Zealand.  The white-water on the Shotover River is a Class Four.  Naturally, our fearless leader showed no hesitation as she dodged boulders and whirlpools in a 15 minute expedition. She even managed not to get her skinny jeans and blue blazer wet.

Kate Went to Church.  Yesterday was Palm Sunday, so Kate, kid and hubby all went to a service in St. Paul Cathedral Church in Dunedin.  The proud family arrived early and were seated in the front row next to esteemed clergy.  Who cares?  What did Kate wear?  Okay... she had on an aquamarine dress with a matching hat.  Both were designed by New Zealanders Emilia Wickstead and Jane Taylor.  No word yet on the shoes...

Kate Went to Hospital. As with fellow rock-stars and pro athletes, Royals always have to go to a hospital to meet with sick kids.  This photo-op was a meet-and-greet at the Rainbow Place Children's Hospice in Waikato.  an 'Mad-Hatter's Tea Party was held in her honor.  Who cares? Kate wore a jade green Erden coat over a Suzannah dress with black heeled shoes.  Stunning!

Kate Sailed a Yacht. You might not know this, but Kate Middleton is an experienced sailor.  She had worked as a deckhand in a Harbor Side club back home in Solent.  Naturally, she was completely in control of her vessel, much to the delight of the nautically-crazed fans lining the shore.  Kate looked splendid in a navy-blue Benneton- stripped top.  She scooped up her hair into a pony tail hid under a black cap.

We here at the DUNER BLOG give Princess Kate an A+ for her whirlwind trip to New Zealand.  She showed poise, grace, humor and wit.  And...of course...the best fashion imaginable.  Hooray for Kate!

Tuesday, April 8, 2014



The successful Russian annexation of the Crimean Peninsula last month opened a Pandora's Box of problems to many world leaders.  Specifically, Presidents and Prime Ministers are re-thinking the importance of a large standing army.  See, while countries like England, France and Israel have technologically advanced militias...as Putin proved...there really is no substitute for sending 100,000 troops marching across a border.  Hence, here are the Top Ten largest armies on earth.

#1. People's Liberation Army of China. 2,285,000 Active Duty.  The armed forces of the PRC began in 1927 as the Worker's & Peasant's Forces.  However, a lot has changed in the last 87 years.  For example, you won't find any peasants manning the 533mm Yu-8 long-range torpedoes.  In addition to being large, China's military is also advanced.  Experts say it will be a technological equal the USA in 15 -20 years.

#2. U.S. Armed Forces. 1,429,000 Active Duty. While America is #2 on this list, the Yanks are #1 on these other two lists: Military Spending and Technological Capabilities.  In short, the Armed Forces has played a pivotal role in the National Psyche since the Barbary Wars in 1801.  Although called the Department of Defense today, the vast majority of operations have been in distant lands like Vietnam or Mesopotamia.  In fact, since 1812, the US has been attacked only twice:  Pancho Villa's raid in 1915 and one Japanese plane in 1942.

#3. Indian Armed Forces. 1,325,000 Active Duty Although once controlled by the UK, today India's army is eight times larger than England's.  Initially bolstered to protect the Northern Border with Pakistan, today the world's largest all-volunteer army is known for peace-keeping missions in neighboring nations like Sri Lanka.  However, you don't want to mess with the Ghatack Undercover Attack Unit.

#4. Korean People's Army. 1,106,000 Active Duty. Uh-oh!  It's time for the scariest entry on the list: North Korea's Rebels Without A Cause.  For such a small country, they sure have an enormous army.  In fact, if you count reserves and paramilitary personnel, North Korea has the world's largest army with 9,495,000 troops.  This is a whopping 40% of the entire population of the rogue state.

#5. Russian Armed Forces. 766,000 Active Duty. During the Great Patriotic War (World War II), the Red Army was the largest on earth, with some three million soldiers.  During the Cold War, it continued to dominate International affairs, with a bold invasion of Afghanistan and countless covert KGB operations. Although no longer the power of the past, Russia is clearly still capable off annexing large regions seemingly overnight..

#6. Republic of Korea Armed Forces. 687,000 Active Duty. Created in 1948 and heavily funded by the USA, the ROK has one specific aim: To defend the Southern half of the Korean Peninsula from invasion.  Hence, the vast majority of the forces are mustered along the DMZ.  However, the idle South Korean forces are great in natural disasters and have recently been deployed on peacekeeping missions in Africa.

#7. Turkish Armed Forces. 664,000 Active Duty.  Like the Russian army, Turkey's military has a proud past...filled with impressive victories from Tangier to Tehran.  It's been awhile since the days of the Ottoman Empire, but the Turks still have many quarrelsome neighbors and internal divisions to keep them occupied.

#8. Pakistani Armed Forces. 617,000 Active Duty. Of all the nations on this list, Pakistan is the youngest.  And...just like your youngest sibling...Pakistan takes a lot and gives little.  First, China invested heavily, followed by massive funding from Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states.  These days, its the US who foots the bill.  Despite the billions of dollars, the Pakistani Special Forces still couldn't 'find' Osama bin Laden!

#9. Armed Forces of Iran. 523,000 Active Duty.  The only thing that makes these guys more frightening than the North Koreans is the fact that the top Iranian general is also the top priest.  Under 35 years of Ayatollah-based leadership, Iran has embarked on one senseless campaign after another.  These include the bloody, twelve-year war with Iraq, support of Hezbollah and Hamas as well as the current arms shipments to Syria's madman, al-Bashir.  The Revolutionary Guard needs to chill!

#10. Egyptian Armed Forces. 468,000 Active Duty.   Originally formed to police and monitor Israel, today the massive Egyptian army struggles to keep internal affairs calm.  It's main foes are the Muslim Brotherhood, Nubian separatists and Coptic groups.  Unfortunately, as more and more American and Saudi military aid comes pouring in, the situation just seemed to become more and more desperate...

Tuesday, April 1, 2014



Okay...  Here's a geography question for you:  How is the Colorado River different from all other great American Rivers like the Mississippi, Columbia and Hudson?  While these three rivers empty into large bodies of water...the Gulf of Mexico, Pacific and Atlantic Oceans... the Colorado never makes it to the open sea.  Seventy miles prior to reaching the Gulf of California, the mighty river comes to a sudden halt at the Morelos Dam.  Here the last drops of water are consumed by Arizona, the last of seven US states in the basin.  Not even a drop makes it across the border to Mexico.

That all changed on Thursday!  Thousands of cheering people gathered on both sides of the US / Mexico border to witness history.  Thanks to bountiful Rocky Mountain rainfall the last couple of years, a landmark international agreement occurred.  The result is a partial restoration of the Colorado River's actual route. Simply put, this means for the first time...in half a century...water was released from the last enclosure. Now the Colorado can join the other US river-friends and be complete!

This may seem insignificant to many, but not to Carlos Bazua.  The Mexicali resident drove to the San Luis Bridge to witness the event firsthand.  "Since I was a kid, my father told me that...long ago...there was water here," he explained as he stood waist deep in the flowing current.  "But I do not remember that." In fact, Carlos could never have recalled the Colorado River, as the 47-year-old wasn't alive prior to the Morelos Dam's opening in 1964.

You might be asking yourself:  Is it legal for one nation to keep all the water from a shared body of water? Aren't there international laws to regulate this?  Of course there are!  In 1951, the Helsinki Rules were ratified by the United Nations.  This code clearly states that countries must share natural resources that span mutual territory.  The United States knows it is in clear violation of the ordinance.  However...since there is no international body to enforce the Helsinki Rules...Mexico has been forced to accept the loss of its right to the much needed water of the Colorado River delta.

However...until May 18th...the US is playing by the rules.  For this short period, the oasis that once blessed the arid Sonoran Desert is back.  Prior to the 1962, the Colorado River Delta was bustling with farms and fisheries.  There was ample wildlife, including hordes of migrating birds and butterflies.  While none of these can return in eight short weeks, the dreams of restoring the ecosystem are back.  Unfortunately, the audacity of America will never be quenched.  Other nations who really need water share rivers.  For example, Ethiopia would love to keep all Nile River water, but it doesn't.  Likewise, Turkey wants more of the Tigris and Euphrates...

It seems poor nations are better at sharing than the rich ones...