Weekly insights into our crazy world.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014



Over the weekend, all of us at the DUNER BLOG were rudely awakened at 3:07 in the morning by a fierce earthquake.  It was a 6.1 on the Richter Scale and was based near Napa. Fortunately, no one was killed. Unfortunately, it's estimated the loss of wine will exceed $1 billion. Anyhow, while San Francisco has had its share of earthquakes over the years, it still failed to make our list of the world cities most prone to earthquakes.

10. Antofagasta, Chile. Pop: 345,000. More earthquakes have struck this Northern Chilean city than any other populated place on earth. (The only reason it is so low on the list is its small population.) Massive quakes struck in 1868, 1877, 1921 and 1996. The worse was a 7.1 Richter Scale quake in 2007 that left 92 people dead.

9. Tijuana, Mexico. Pop: 5,000,000. When people think of big cities of the West Coast, LA & SF come to mind. But these cosmopolitan cities are much better prepared for a quake than TJ. With millions of people living in un-zoned makeshift homes of concrete, bricks and corrugated steel roofs, a 6.0 earthquake centered in Tijuana would kill an estimated 50,000 people.

8. Tokyo, Japan. Pop: 20,000,000. No city on earth is better prepared for a massive quake than Tokyo. Unfortunately, no metropolis in more vulnerable to seismic activity. The 1923 Great Kanto Quake killed 140,000...the worst in the last century. As a result, Tokyo was rebuilt with tremblors in mind. When a 6.1 quake struck the city in May, damages were non-existent.

7. Istanbul, Turkey. Pop: 14,000,000  Located right on the edge of the Eurasian and African tectonic plates, Istanbul is precarious. The Anatolian Fault runs directly below. A jolt in 1509 destroyed all the walls and fortifications. Recently, in 1999, a nearby quake still killed 18,000. With shoddy construction bolstered by municipal bribes, predictions of a big quake are dreary.

6. Jakarta, Indonesia. Pop: 18,000,000. Unregulated growth has seen massive landfill projects in the North. This means that 40% of the capital is under sea level on unsteady ground. Indonesia is no stranger to earthquakes...more happen here than on any other nation on earth. Fortunately, economic growth has led to a new interest in retrofitting.

5. Manila, Philippines. Pop: 15,000,000. This island nation has seen its share of deadly quakes. Fortunately, they have not struck the capital...yet.  A 7.2 quake last year killed 300, and a 7.8 quake in 1990 killed 1600 and a 7.9 trembler in 1976 had a 40,000 death toll. None of these occurred in a densely populated area. If a 7.0 or greater quake hit Manila, one of the world's most densely populated areas, it would be horrific.

4. Kathmandu, Nepal. Pop: 1,500,000. When most people think of Nepal, they imagine snow capped Himalayan peaks graced by pristine rivers. Downstream is the teaming capital of Kathmandu. With scant natural resources and shaky shale bedrock, it's estimated 60% of the buildings would collapse in a 6.0 earthquake. 10% of the population would perish.

3. Mexico City, Mexico. Pop: 20,000,000. Like Kathmandu, Mexico City was built on dried lakes, salt beds and unstable bedrock. Even without earthquakes, buildings like the Guadalupe Cathedral have sunk 10 feet in the last ten years. So when tremblors do strike, their devastation is magnified. Even though the 8.1 quake in 1985 was 500 miles away, over 100,000 people lost their lives.

2. Quito, Ecuador. Pop: 2,000,000. Since its founding in the year 1534, Quito has been hit by one natural disaster after another. See, no other major world city lies at the base of an active volcano. Mighty Pichincha doesn't erupt often, but when it does it covers the city in ash. It is also responsible for sudden and violent quakes.

1. New Delhi, India. Pop: 20,000,000. The reason why New Delhi tops our list is their lack of recent activity. Although not located on a major fault line, earthquakes strike this region routinely. The last on in 2007 was only a 4.7, yet it caused widespread panic, looting and general chaos. Since Delhi is overdue for a big quake, we can only imagine the pandemonium that will inevitably result from a 6.0 or greater earthquake.

Thursday, August 21, 2014



Great news from Belfast! Local lass Margaret Loughrey won a whopping $48 million in the EuroMillions Lottery! Never heard of the EuroMillions? Well, it's a lot like the MegaMillions Lotto in the USA. Instead of numerous states 'teaming up' to make for bigger jackpots, numerous nations 'team up' across the European continent for enormous payouts. And this month's payout was one of the largest EVER!

You're asking yourself: Don't people win big lotteries everyday? Why is the DUNER BLOG interested in something so mundane? Well, Margaret is doing something no other lottery winner has done before. She's giving all but 3% of it away. Crazy, but true. Here are the figures: Ms Loughrey won €34 million and she's giving €33 million away. She figures a million Euros is more than enough for her. She's 48 years old and that's plenty of dough.

You're asking yourself: Is Margaret already wealthy? Surely she must have a large nest egg already! Nope. In fact, Ms Loughrey bought the lucky ticket while walking home from the Unemployment Office. Her benefits are only €70 a week, but she always bought one ticket a week just for luck. (This is Ireland, you know!) "I know what it is like to have nothing," Margaret quipped "I can't miss what I never had." She hints she might retire to the Costa Brava in Spain, but for the time being, she's staying put in Northern Ireland.

You're asking yourself: Who gets all of Margaret's millions? Her 75 year-old mum got a nice cut. Lots of her friends on unemployment also got wads of cash. But don't worry! The vast majority of her winnings are going to her beloved hometown of Strabane. She wants to invest in her community. For example, she spent €1.25 million to buy the historic Herdman's Mill. She's converting it to a craft village where local residents can work. "There is so much talent in Strabane," she explained. "People just need to be given a chance to work, to support families, to run a business, to buy a home.."

It's true: You can learn a lot from Mags. (That's her nickname.) She insists on sharing. "No point in having $48 million and being lonely. That can't make me happy. What can only make me happy is that everyone else is happy." She also feels Northern Island is the most beautiful place on earth and that tourists should come here.  She wants to invest in other famous sites and get folks to come to forgotten province. She's right! The Giant's Causeway (pictured) is a World Heritage Site and should be on everyone's bucket list. So pack your bags and head to land of luck!

PS. Her lucky numbers were 19, 23, 27, 42 & 44.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014



This summer's runaway blockbuster movie is 'The Dawn of the the Planet of the Apes.'  It has grossed a staggering $543.5 million worldwide since its May release. The outrageous plot pits humans vs other primates in a bloody battle for control of the earth. Sound too far-fetched? Not to residents of New Delhi! See, India's sprawling capital has been commandeered by a real-life army of ravenous rhesus macaque monkeys. They've taken over hospitals, hotels and are currently invading the Houses of Parliament.

Don't believe us? Ask one of India's newly elected Senior Ministers. They cannot move into their new quarters in the Luyten District, as they are occupied by rogue monkeys. Ask Sonia Gandhi. Angry macaques tore the satellite dish off her roof. Even new Prime Minister Modi's five-bungalow residence complex is under siege. But nowhere in Delhi is the bedlam worse than at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences. Here, the clever monkeys have recently learned how to operate the newly installed automatic doors. They snatch food and terrorize medical staff every day.

Why don't Delhi residents just call an exterminator? It's not that easy. This is India! In addition to cows, rhesus monkeys have a sacred place in Hinduism. In ancient times, the monkey-god Hanuman aided Lord Rama in their epic war against the evil king Ravana. Since then, harming shooting or culling the rhesus monkey is solidly against the scriptures. Many Hindus actually worship them. In fact, patients at the above-mentioned hospital keep worsening the situation by feeding the invading monkeys. They believe the rhesus will bless them and speed their recovery.

The solution? An army of Monkey-Wallahs. (Monkey Men) These brave souls are paid to scare the hordes of simian invaders away. Some dress in costume, others in black robes. The secret, however, is their ability to impersonate the cry of the natural enemy of the rhesus: the aggressive langur monkey. Here's how they do it: "A loud 'Ah-ah-ah' is our first call," explained Mahendra Goswami. "Then a shrill 'Uh-uh-uh.' Finally, the attack call: Uah Uah!'" Earning $115 a month, Goswami is part of 40-man elite force, funded by the municipal government, to chase away the rhesus.

Unfortunately, we here at the DUNER BLOG see the Monkey-Wallah as a very short-term solution to the problem. See, the rhesus monkeys all return the following day. This is a much larger problem. All across Asia, nations grapple with the question: How to implement ancient scripture into a modern life. For example, in the Koran, Mohammad washes his hands with camel urine to clean them. While we know better today, some still feel this is the proper way to sanitize their hands, given its holy rationale. Sadly, until education and religion can co-exist better, New Delhi will just monkey-around with this daunting problem!  

Tuesday, August 5, 2014



It's the middle of summer! In the States, Tourist Season is in full swing. And nowhere in the US sees more tourists per hour than New York City's famed Times Square. It's picture-taking heaven. You can imitate the famed 'Victory in Europe Day' kiss. Or you can try to capture the endless array of neon lights and larger-than-life TV sets. And...of course... you can pose for a photo with a beloved costumed childhood character, like Elmo, Spider Man or Minnie Mouse. What fun!

However, there is one problem with the above mentioned Times Square activities. While the first two are free, the last one will cost you. Immediately after snapping the seemingly harmless photo-op with The Hulk, you're expected to pay a mandatory 'tip.' The request will not be polite. For example, Hello Kitty recently quipped after receiving a mere quarter: "This is no good, lady. We work for tips."  Last month, Cookie Monster held a toddler hostage until her mother forked over $5.  Simply put, the tourist destination has become a battlefield.

So what is NYPD doing? Why isn't Buzz Lightyear behind bars? Because the costumed menaces are not breaking any laws. So long as they don't block traffic, street performers are allowed in public areas. Unless they are caught in a physical altercation, the police have their hands tied. Meanwhile, the lure of mega-tourist dollars is luring mascots to Times Square in droves. A recent New York Post study counted a whopping 44 costumed characters shaking down visitors from 1:00 - 2:00 one afternoon.  These included 3 Cinderellas, 4 Minions, 2 Sponge-Bobs, 2 Capt Americas and so on..

In response, an unlikely coalition is forming to thwart the mascot mayhem.  Mayor Bill de Blasio is at the helm. "This has gone too far," he stated. "I don't know whether to call it an 'industry or not.. But it needs to be regulated." He has formed an alliance with the Sesame Workshop, owners of the intellectual property rights to Elmo and Cookie Monster. "We care about our fans and the image of our characters" said a CWW spokesman. "And we care about public safety in Times Square." Disney, Marvel and DC Comics are also mulling legal action to preserve Minnie Mouse, Iron Man and Batman's dignity as well.

Fortunately, we here at the DUNER BLOG have the solution to the problem! First of all: We agree with Mayor Bill that regulation and organization of the costumed mascot must occur. However, we do not trust the bureaucratic mess that is NYC to handle the loony people who spend ten hours a day in a sweaty Super Mario costume. The solution? Have the most respected man on Times Square head a special autonomous department to supervise and organize Times Square. There is only one man for the job: