Weekly insights into our crazy world.

Friday, December 16, 2016



Around the world, nations are lifting bans on once feared activities. In November, recreational marijuana became legal in seven US states. Alcohol can be now be purchased in supermarkets in Egypt and the U.A.E. And this week, the Japanese Parliament voted to lift a century-old ban on gambling. It makes you wonder. Soon, prostitution will be unionized and cocaine will be sold at football games.

Let's look at the changes in the staunchly conservative and traditional nation of Japan. Recently, numerous factors have the population worried about their financial future: A slumping auto industry.  An aging workforce. Fierce competition within Asia. Legislators knew they needed to find new ways to raise revenue. So members of parliament decided their constituents would be happy with the projected tax income gained from opening once-feared casinos across the country. NOTE: Twelve MPs did walk out in protest.

The truth is Japan already allows some forms of gambling. For example, wagering on horse racing is legal and the country does have a nationwide lottery. And then there are the Pachinko Parlors. This pinball based game involves hundreds of pin pong balls that noisily fall into winning and losing slots. Although technically a form of gambling, it somehow falls into a grey area of acceptance.

But let's face it: None of these petty industries will ever compare to the massive, Vegas-style casinos Japan is planning to open. The hope is to lure tourists away from the new wagering meccas of Macau and Singapore. For years, Japan has watched in envy as billions of tax dollars go to rivals, while they were shut out of the fun due to some outdated laws. 

In summary, Japan is currently attempting to re-brand the international image of the nation. Legalizing gambling fits right into the plan. With the 2020 Olympics on the horizon, Tokyo wants to be seen as hip, fun and current. Not stodgy and dull. More like Dubai and less like Seoul. But we can hear the defining silence of Japan's elderly populace wondering what happened to their protected paradise. Someone needs to tell them that, in the year 2016, economic gain trumps traditional values. In short, if money can be made, no one cares about negative effects on society.

Friday, December 9, 2016


Guess which building is the ACTUAL embassy

Big news from West Africa this week. Officials in Ghana announced they uncovered a fake US embassy operating in the capital Accra. Although currently shut down, it has been open for the last ten years. In addition to selling stolen visas and passports, they also have issued fraudulent documents as well. While the US State Department has been slow to offer details, here’s the questions the DUNER BLOG can answer. 

The obvious first question is: How could something as large as an embassy operate without people noticing? Not interested in attracting attention, the office had very little signage on the outside of the building. In fact, no ‘drop-ins’ were allowed; only those with appointments were allowed inside. Basically, the ‘embassy’ recruited customers from outside Accra. Folks from rural parts of Ghana and neighboring Ivory Coast and Togo would apply and then come to the city for their scheduled meetings.

Next up: When the customers got inside, didn’t they question the legitimacy of the embassy? Once past the front door, the deception begins. Everything was made to look like an official US operation. The crime syndicate studied what other US embassies looked like and copied them to a ‘T.’ Upon arrival, a towering framed photo of President Obama hung on the wall. Actual State Department memos were plastered on bulletin boards. They even had up-to-date laptops and iPhones at each desk.

Finally, what about the staff workers themselves? Didn’t people notice the officers weren’t Dick and Jane from the good ol’ USA? To solve this problem, the Ghanaian Crime Syndicate enlisted the help of a Turkish gang. With the ambiguous ethnicity of Turks, they were able to fool ordinary Africans into thinking they were American staff. Another way the embassy appeared to be legit.

All in all, it was quite an elaborate and effective scheme. In fact, the only time people questioned the legitimacy of the satellite embassy was when they received the bill. Each visa issued cost US$6,000! Which takes us to the real issue in this blog: Some people are so desperate to enter the United States of America, they will give their life savings to do so. The State Department has yet to respond to reporters' questions about how many people managed to enter the USA from the faux embassy and whether they plan to deport any of them. What a mess!!

Saturday, December 3, 2016



With all the Regime Change going on in the world these days, it hard to keep track. That's why the DUNER BLOG is here! Today, we're traveling far to the North...to the Arctic Circle. Iceland to be exact. Yesterday, President Johannesson announced she will "hand the mandate to the Pirate Party to form a new government" to lead the island nation.

Pirate Party? Will it be Halloween every day in Iceland? Actually, the Pirate Party is part of a global movement based on 'Direct Democracy.' Their policies involve stamping out corruption and returning the act of governing back to the people. How? They want online polling to pass new laws...not a governing body. They want public ownership of all national resources. In short, they want to tear up the 72-year old Iceland Constitution and start over. "I would like everyone in Iceland to find their pirate within," explained leader Birgitta Jonsdottir. "The pirate represents change with a collective vision of the future."

Actually...pirates were horrific murders with a vision of only themselves...but we still like Birgitta's ideology. Back in Ancient Greece, Democracy meant listening to each and every Athenian (male) citizen before making any laws. Over time, this spirit has been diluted by elected representatives, members of parliament and electoral colleges. Yuck. These people can be impediments to progress. They get slowed down by tempting offers from special interest groups. This often results in corruption. But with Pirates in power, things will be different.

However...just like their namesakes...the Pirates in Iceland also get into trouble. Birgitta, the self-described 'Poetician,' got her start as a computer hacker. In fact, she collaborated with Julian Assange to expose the infamous 'Collateral Murder' video. This exposed US military atrocities during the Iraq War back in 2007. As a Member of Parliament, she offered Icelandic citizenship to Edward Snowden. But this year's 'Panama Papers' was her coup d'état. They linked the Prime Minister to a tax evasion scheme. This enraged the nation, who responded at the ballot box.

Despite this surge, the Pirates still only account for 10 of the 63 seats in the Althing (Iceland's Parliament). The PM only asked Birgitta to form a coalition government after the two main parties failed to so in the allotted two month time frame which just expired. But the message being sent worldwide from Iceland is still clear. Across the globe, citizens are voting for "strange people" like Birgitta. "Normal people feel no one listens to them," she explained "they are marginalized and forgotten." We here at the DUNER BLOG agree. It's just difficult adjusting to Pirates and CEOs as Presidents...

Saturday, November 26, 2016



In the United States, today is BLACK FRIDAY. It's the single day when Americans buy more products than any other day on the calendar. Our international readers might be confused, so here's a quick primer: Once a religious holiday, Christmas in the USA has evolved into an explosion of materialism. In short, to celebrate properly, you must buy a gift for everyone you know...from your spouse to the custodian at work. To "save" money, smart shoppers know the best holiday sales begin on the first shopping day after Thanksgiving, or Black Friday.

Just how enormous has BLACK FRIDAY become? Let's check out the stats. One in three Americans...about 108 million people...will hit the malls on this one day. They'll spend an average of $289 dollars each. In total, this means around $50 billion being spent in American stores in a 24-hour span. Wow! That's more than some nations make all year long. Just how much do Americans love to buy things? Let's dig deeper.

As the largest consumer market in the world, the US accounts for a whopping 29% of the world's commercial expenditures. Next, consider this: America only represents 5% of the world's population. Do the math: We buy six times more cars, phones, toys, athletic apparel, etc. than anyone else in the world. And we still can't get enough. Projections are for more consumer spending this holiday season and on into next year.

Despite these projections, the United States' place atop the global marketplace list will not last forever. China, currently in third place, will pass #2 Japan next year on the world's largest consumer market rankings. With a sixth of the world's population, the Chinese people simply need to buy more of the products they already make. While this has historically been a problem (the Opium Wars), a new generation is buying more and saving less. It's difficult to get clear stats from the PRC, but most economists believe China will surpass the USA in overall spending by the year 2019.

Don't despair, American shoppers! There is still one statistic the USA will always top: Per-capita household spending. Simply put, if everyone in China spent money like Americans do, this wouldn't be an issue. But each house in the USA buys fifteen times more than the citizens of the People's Republic do. The downside is that American savings accounts pale to our counterparts in Europe and the Orient. But who cares? Let's stop reading silly blogs and start swiping our credit cards at the shopping mall!!

Friday, November 18, 2016



With the nation's 45th president all decided, many Americans are wondering: Is Donald Trump the wealthiest US President of all time? The answer is YES. In fact, the Donald is a dozen times richer than any previous Commander In Chief. However, while doing the research, we here at the DUNER BLOG were surprised at who he bumped down on the list of the TOP FIVE WEALTHIEST PRESIDENTS:

#2. George Washington. $525 million (in 2016 dollars). They didn't call him 'His Excellency' for nothing. Glorified today by silly legends, grandiose statues and ginormous monuments, the first president was financially similar to Trump. Born into an aristocratic family, George inherited an enormous amount of cash upon his father's early passing. This included Mount Vernon: 7,500 acres of farmland complete with 300 African slaves to provide guaranteed labor. After the tumultuous Revolutionary Years, Washington had to be coaxed away from the estate to lead the nation. He was lured by an enticing salary, which accounted for 2% of the entire Federal Budget of 1790.

#3. Thomas Jefferson. $212 million. Another recipient of family fortune, Jefferson was presented with 3,000 acres of prime plantation land and 40 slaves. Both amounts doubled by the time he assumed the office of the presidency. Fortunately, Thomas is remembered today for his intellect and statesmanship, and not for his financial failures. Simply put, TJ liked to live the lavish life. His trips to Paris were particularly frivolous, as he purchased much of the luxurious furnishing on display at Monticello today. Jefferson did not return the favors of his father...he left $100,000 in debt to his children.

#4. Theodore Roosevelt. $125 million. From one of Manhattan's most successful families, Theodore (he hated being called Teddy) had a rather turbulent financial life. He lost millions on a failed ranching scheme in the Dakotas. Fortunately, Roosevelt recovered nicely on his next real estate venture. He invested heavily in Long Island estates, particularly in the Hamptons. Later in life, Teddy made millions more from speaking endorsements.

#5. Andrew Jackson. $119 million. Perhaps the former president who most resembles Trump is the first populist...and eighth...Commander in Chief. Like the Donald, he was elected largely without the support of a political party. Both men are notoriously quick tempered and both men were lampooned for their weird red hair. Unlike Trump, Jackson earned the trust of the nation by the military accomplishments of the Tennessee Volunteers.

#? John F. Kennedy. $1 billion. Wait! If JFK was worth a billion, why is he so low on the list? It's a Catch-22: See, John's father, Joseph Kennedy was still alive when his son was assassinated in 1963. So...had John lived another six years...he would have inherited a billion bucks upon Joseph's death. Despite this, John still had a cool $25 million in the bank. Not enough to be in the top five, but still worth mentioning.

BONUS: The poorest US President: Abraham Lincoln. He deserves to be on Mount Rushmore the most as his achievements were entirely on his own and not aided by massive financial inheritance.

Friday, November 11, 2016



Here in the USA, the sights and smells of Autumn are in full swing. Tree leaves shine in red and yellow. Nights are colder and shorter. Seasonal changes are underway in Beijing too...only they are little different. In the Chinese capital, fall is called Smog Season. With temperatures dropping, this means three million coal furnaces are being lit, adding to already horribly polluted skies. Here the yellow and red of fall refer to the 'City Alert' scale for healthy air. For example, yesterday was a 'Yellow Warning' day.

While all air pollutants are unhealthy, the most dangerous ones are PM2.5 particles. This refers to their tiny size, not to their makeup. In short,they are the miniscule...but active...bits of sulfur dioxide, lead and carbon monoxide. They are small enough to slide past your windpipe and then get into your lungs and cause some nasty damage. The best way to avoid PM2.5's is to wear a face mask. That's why people in Beijing always look like a bunch of surgeons. An astounding one fifth of all face masks sold in China are sold in the capital.

So what is Chinese government doing to address the crisis? Thankfully, Beijing officials have abandoned the 'Just Don't Breathe' campaign and are taking another approach: Blame the weather. State news agencies report about "meteorological disasters" backed up by altered satellite images showing immense fronts pushing into Northeast China. Meanwhile, the real culprits continue to pollute. Unregulated industrial factories release crap into the air while government officials take bribes and look the other way.

Uh-oh! Is there any good news in this blog? Of course. One inventor has made a fantastic machine. It sucks in dirty air, filters out the smog particles and pumps clean air out. However, what separates the Smog-Free Tower from other air conditioners is the end result. It compresses the carbon and turns them into diamond rings! In only 30 short minutes, it can clean 30,000 cubic meters of air and produce one piece of jewelry. Not bad!

While the Dutch inventor and the 'Smog Free China' Project do have some merit, we here at the DUNER BLOG would prefer to also attack the dirty corporations behind Beijing's dreaded Smog Season. The rest of the world needs to intervene and repeal any 'Developing Nation Exemption.' Let's start making Beijing accountable. They need to follow the same regulations as everyone else. The huge irony is that this nation calls itself a 'People's' Republic. If the people are in control, why can't they breathe?  

Friday, November 4, 2016



Noting quite symbolizes California like the avocado. The omnipresent fruit makes life special. Every San Francisco 49er tailgate has a heaping bowl of guacamole. Fast food chains Chipotle and Subway report a 50% increase in sales when avocado is added to a sandwich or burrito. Heck, when I grew up in Orange County, the entire kitchen was avocado green. So imagine the state of panic in the Golden State these days: A shortage has resulted in a 300% increase in avocado prices. Called Guacapocalypse by the San Diego Union Tribune, it affects the life of every Californian. Let’s dig deeper into the causes.

A Draught. As everyone knows, the state of California has been reeling from draught. Three of the last four years have seen less than average rainfall. This has taken a humungous toll on the avocado trees. Shriveled branches and wrinkled leaves results in tiny fruit. Since an avocado is 70% water, this means bad news for your guacamole. With most of the harvest already over, don’t expect to see many domestically grown avocados in the near future.

A Strike. While California has traditionally produced most of the nation’s avocados, these days 80% of the crop is imported from Mexico. The amount has grown every year and is now over three billion pounds. Most of these are grown in the lush and sunny state of Michoacán. Sadly, the massive groves of trees have been wrought by a nasty employee strike for the last six months. Thankfully, cooler heads have prevailed last month and the pickers received a much needed raise. 40 million pounds of Green Gold are being shipped to the USA as we speak.

Foreign Demand. In addition to these two difficult problems, a third issue is also driving avocado prices to new heights: International markets. First up: Japan. Here, imports have quadrupled over the last decade. This is directly attributable to the popularity of the California Roll at Sushi Bars across the nation. Next up: Europe. Mexican food is the new rage in Germany. There are ten Mexican restaurants in Dresden alone, up from zero twenty years ago. Both nations rely on Mexico for their avocado needs, resulting in a higher demand and higher prices.

Yikes! Does this mean it's time to panic? No, fellow Californians, it's time to wait. We shall wait until Sunday, February 5th...otherwise known as Super Bowl Sunday. On this date, Americans eat the most avocados of the year: eight million pounds to be exact. We expect the growers, shippers, distributors and local supermarkets have this date circled on their calendar. Only until then can we be sure the dreaded Gucapocalypse will be over!

Wednesday, October 26, 2016



It's time for the World Series...the longest-running sports championship in the world. And this years' match-up in particularly intriguing. Both teams have been absent from the Fall Classic for a LONG TIME. It's a combined 176 years since either the Chicago Cubs or Cleveland Indians have won a World Series. While other sites and blogs have boring head-to-head predictions, we here at the DUNER BLOG are handicapping the intangibles.

LONGEST WAIT: It's Cleveland's sixth World Series appearance. While that sounds impressive, remember: This is the Indian's 114th season. Ouch! The Tribe did appear somewhat recently in 1997, when they lost to Florida. Prior to that, their last World Series was in 1948, when they bested the Boston Braves. Likewise, the Cubs have been chasing the elusive crown for an eternity. Every Cubs fan knows the year: 1908. That's when they beat the Detroit Tigers. Since then, they have lost eight times, with their last appearance coming in 1945. Advantage: Chicago

TEAM COLORS: The most popular colors for teams in Major League Baseball are Red, White & Blue. Even the one team outside of the USA (the Toronto Blue Jays) wears these colors. So it comes as no surprise that the Cubs and the Indians both don Blue, White and Red. However, Chicago's shade of blue is a bit too much like Powder-Buff Blue for the DUNER BLOG. We prefer the Indian's more distinguished Navy Blue. Advantage: Cleveland.

NICKNAME: Originally called the Lakeshores, they switched in 1903 to the Naps. This was a nod to Napoleon Lajoie, a former 2nd baseman and popular manager. When Nap unceremoniously jumped to the Philadelphia A's for a $10,000 raise, it was clear the nickname had to change. Newspapermen voted on the Indians. They were inspired by Louis Socklexis, the left-fielder who was of the Perobscot Tribe. However, everyone forgets this today and plays the damning 'Racist' card. Meanwhile, in 1903 the Chicago White Stockings re-branded and played it safe by choosing a cuddly Cub. Advantage: Chicago.

TEAM MASCOT: What would Major League Baseball be without a zany mascot? (Who doesn't laugh at the Philadelphia Phanatic?) Things weren't always so silly. Joa, the original Cubs mascot, was an actual bear from the zoo. These days, it's Clark. He's a super-cute, always-smiling bear cub with a cap. In Cleveland, Chief Wahoo rallies the crowds with cries of "Charge!" at Progressive Field. As with other mascots with Native American heritage, Chief Wahoo has been targeted by protesters. These days, he shares the stage with Slider, some kind of over-sized parrot. Advantage: Chicago. NOTE: The three MLB teams without mascots: Angels, Dodgers, Yankees.

Well, by a margin of 3-1 the DUNER BLOG officially endorses the CUBS to win the 2016 World Series. Best of luck to both squads!

Friday, October 21, 2016


Even the pretty Oleander flowers on SR99 are poisonous.
Last week, consumer watchdog group ValuePenguin released an interesting study. They listed the 50 deadliest roads in America. To determine this, they employed a complex system. First, they took three important statistics: Deaths caused by hazardous weather, poor lighting and by drunk drivers. These were added together and divided by the total length of the highway to produce a final rating. Here are the Top Five:
#1. State Route 99 (California). Fatalities per 100 miles: 62. Deadliest city: Fresno.
Dating back to 1910, this popular route is one of the world’s oldest motorways. Originally called US-99, in 1926 it became the first road to connect Mexico and Canada. When the Interstates arrived in the 1950’s, the sleak I-5 took away the LA / SF traffic. The state-funded 99 was shortened and neglected. Today, it connects the hardworking, agriculture capitals of Bakersfield, Fresno and Modesto. It is the darkest freeway in the land and the second-most inebriated. It’s a shame that such a wealthy state lets its backbone languish while Orange County freeways get elevated carpool lanes.
#2. Interstate 45 (Texas). Fatalities per 100 miles: 56. Deadliest city: Houston.
Texas was the last US State to outlaw open containers while operating a motor vehicle. But old habits die hard…as do the folks driving on this road. Last year, 8 people died from a drunk driver every 100 miles on this popular roadway. It connects Dallas to Houston, but the most congested section is the Gulf Freeway, which leads to Galveston. During Hurricane Rita in 2005, many people lived on this freeway, as it became gridlocked with evacuees for three whole days.
#3. Interstate 95 (Florida to Maine). Fatalities per 100 miles: 53. Deadliest city: Jacksonville.
Beginning in Miami, this heavily-traveled route meanders through Georgia and the Carolina's and then serves as a beltway through DC and Baltimore. Next, it becomes the world-famous New Jersey Turnpike, proudly crossing the George Washington Bridge into NYC. After leaving Boston, I-95 terminates at the Maine / New Brunswick border. Most of the fatalities occur on crowded stretches during bad weather. Last year, the 109 fatal accidents during rain and snow were the highest of any road in the USA. NOTE: It also passes through more states (15) than any other interstate.
#4. Interstate 10. (California to Florida). Fatalities per 100 miles: 54. Deadliest city: New Orleans.
Starting at the Santa Monica Pier, this route next skirts the Mexican border in Arizona and New Mexico. One third of its 2,460 miles are within the state of Texas. Finally, it follows the Gulf coastline, ending in Jacksonville. Poor lighting is the main culprit for its high death rate: Long desert stretches on I-10 make it the darkest Interstate in the country. It also dips below sea level in New Orleans...and was flooded for months after Hurricane Katrina.
#5. Interstate 75. (Michigan to Florida). Fatalities per 100 miles: 47.2 Deadliest city: Detroit.
The so-called ‘Spring Break Freeway’ connects cold Michigan with sunny Florida, following a southeasterly route through the Appalachians Mountains. Although most of the route is six lanes…even in rural regions…it still isn’t wide enough. City folk from Cleveland and Cincinnati are thrust into curvy, rain-soaked stretches and don’t respond well. It ranks second in the category of highway deaths caused by inclement weather.

Friday, October 14, 2016


An article in the obscure newspaper The Siberian Times caught the attention of the world this week. It detailed new plans between Japan and Russia. The two nations plan to overhaul the existing lines of famed Trans-Siberian Railway. The goal is to triple current speeds.  However, what really blew our minds are the ambitious  plans to extend service to Japan! This will be accomplished by using a series of bridges and tunnels over the Sea of Oktosh. Wow! Imagine taking a train from London to Tokyo!

Currently, 5,800-mile Trans-Siberian is the longest in the world…both in distance and in travel times. It takes seven days to traverse the world’s largest nation. It costs $800 / $1200 (Second / First Class), which also includes food. Unfortunately, the ride ends in Vladivostok, a dismal city on the Southern tip of Siberia’s frozen Pacific Coast. Yuck! Thankfully, the new route will bypass this industrial port altogether. It will instead head north and cross a 4-mile bridge to Sakhalin Island. After crossing the 600-mile long island, a 26 mile tunnel will link Siberia to Hokkaido.

Wait a second! Aren't Japan and Russia angry at each other? You Bet! In fact, they are still at war. Neither nation ever signed peace agreements with each other after World War II. See, both nations claim sovereignty over the Kuril Islands. In fact, for sixty years, the militaries of both states have postured back and forth, with Air Force jets constantly patrolling the disputed islands.

Why the sudden change of heart? Because...in the year 2016...economic interests trump old political grudges. And both nations can cash in on the new railway line. See, it won’t just be trains traversing the new bridges and tunnels. Russia will also be sending much-needed energy to technology-crazed Japan. In return, crowded Japan will have a vast new playground in Siberia....which is suddenly just a couple of hours away.

Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of this story is the timing of the announcement. First, Putin and Japanese PM Abe meeting in December. (Let’s hope this tops their ‘To-do’ list.) Also, this year just so happens to be the 100th anniversary of the opening of the Trans-Siberian Railway. And…boy…does it need a face lift. It is sooo old it was actually constructed by the Romanov Czars…not the Soviets. Imagine the possibilities! Ski resorts in Siberia and luxury cruises on Lake Baikal could be coming soon.

Friday, October 7, 2016



Two politicians made history in Bogota this week. Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and FARC Leaders Rodrigo Londono signed a peace accord, thus ending a Civil War that has dragged on for 46years. Thousands of citizens…all wearing white…chanted “Si a la Paz!” (Yes to Peace). They held hands and sang the National Anthem. Heck, even US Secretary of State John Kerry was there. “A historic day for Colombia,” he proudly proclaimed.

But Kerry needed to take his quote a step further. It’s a historic day for not just Colombia, but the entire Western Hemisphere. See, for the first time in 56 years, one half of the planet is without war. There are currently no armed political conflicts occurring in the Western Hemisphere. To be clear, there are still lots of regions in the Americas that are wrought with conflict. Drug violence reigns in Honduras and Guatemala. Slums in Venezuela and Brazil are ruled by gangs. The USA is plagued by violent racial strife. Yet none of these qualify as political, civil or international war.

Back to the events in Bogota. Hopefully, the agreement ushers in a new era of international harmony. It has happened before. After the end of World War II, a similar period of tranquility prevailed. And it lasted for fourteen years! Our ‘Pax Americana’ ended when Fidel Castro decided to overthrow Cuba’s Bautista Administration. For the next 56 years, conflicts popped up all over. From El Salvador’s internal strife to the far-off Falkland Island conflict, the Western Hemisphere has been marred with war.

However…compared to the angry Eastern Hemisphere…these conflicts are minimal. The other half of the world has been continually at war since 3500 BC! From ancient Roman Legions to the ravenous Mongolian Horde to the horrors of the Nazis, this side of the world just loves to fight. These days, the wars are concentrated in a giant swath. It starts with Nigeria’s Boko Harem, continues through South Sudan, runs into Yemen, Iraq and ends in Afghanistan, the world’s most chaotic nation.

But today, we savor the peace and prosperity that comes with a region without war. A certain US
Presidential candidate will tell you the world is “more dangerous than ever,” but the truth is quite the opposite. Worldwide, war is on the decline. Health standards are rising. Infant mortality is down. The events in Colombia need to be celebrated, not ignored. In fact, President Santos just might win this year’s Nobel Peace Prize…

Friday, September 30, 2016



It may be hard to believe, but there is a politician out there who has offended MORE PEOPLE than DONALD TRUMP! His name is Rodrigo Duterte and he’s the newly elected president of the Philippines. As expected, our mailbox is jam-packed with questions about “Dingo.” So let’s get started…

Does he really want to kill all drug addicts? Frank, Frankfurt. Not only does Duterte demand the death penalty for any drug related offense, he also wants Filipinos to carry out the executions. Citizens will do so, vigilante-style with no arrests nor trials. “If you know of any addicts, go ahead and kill them yourself, as getting their parents to do so would be too painful,” he explained. Worried about possible revenge or legal issues after you kill your neighbor? No worries. “Even if you kill 1,000 addicts, I will protect you…”

Did he really call Obama the “Son of a Whore”? Pete, Pittsburgh. Prior to the ASEAN Summit last month, Duterte got downright loony at a press conference in Manila. When asked about how he would reply to the US President when pressed on Filipino Human Rights violations, Rodrigo got riled up. Vowing not to be lectured, he instead said he would “Curse at Obama, that son of a whore!” WTF? For some reason, Barack cancelled their private meeting at the event…

How does he feel about the South China Sea dispute? Linda, Lima. The People’s Republic of China has been adding landfill to the Spratley Islands…their tiny colony close to coast of Luzon. The PRC is building military bases to bolster their presence in the region. However, the Chinese better be careful not to sail into the Philippine Exclusive Economic Zone. If so, Duterte warned of a ‘bloody confrontation if they invade us. It will be the bones of our soldiers…and you can include mine.” Yep, that sounds about right if you fought a land war with the world’s largest standing army…

Why will he ride a jet-ski? Nancy, Naples This quote relates to the Spratly Islands dispute. When pressed on how he would react to a Chinese attack, Duterte unveiled his crazy strategy. First, he plans to have the Filipino Navy sail him to the disputed island. Then he will “ride a jet-ski and when I reach Spratly, I will erect the Filipino flag.” These are bold words, but skeptics wonder if China offered him a billion Yuan, he would cave in a second…

Does he have any good ideas? Bob, Boston
. Dingo believes that everyone in the Philippines shares his opinions. This includes not only his disdain for drug dealers but math teachers as well. “Drawing lines makes me dizzy,” Duterte explains. “Let’s remove Algebra, Trigonometry and Calculus from our schools!” Not a bad idea. He also wants to ban Karaoke from bars after 10:00 pm. (Having heard my share of drunk singers butcher Mariah Carey classics, we like this!)

Finally, here's an idea for a Filipino President: Get some rights for the millions of your citizens who work in China. Something tells us they are not getting their fair share...

Saturday, September 24, 2016



An English government agency released a frightening report this week. It listed the most treacherous waterways in the world and provided warnings for overseas citizens. The report also listed the reasons for caution. The top fear on the Seven Seas remains piracy…the number of armed robberies on the oceans continues to rise. The second concern involves bodies of water with dangerous conditions; places with constant storms and swift currents. Finally, some waterways remain shrouded in mystery, with inexplicable incidents still occurring. Here are the top five most dangerous waterways:
#5. Bermuda Triangle. Surprisingly making the UK list was the infamous Bermuda Triangle. Stretching from the remote island of Bermuda to Miami, Florida and Puerto Rico, this mysterious section of the Atlantic continues to baffle logic. Planes, cargo ships and yachts seem to simply vanish. Scientists will tell you it has more to do with the powerful Gulf Stream, but no one can explain why so many more UFO’s appear here than anywhere else.
#4. Gulf of Guinea. Africa’s most populated coastline is found on the Atlantic shores between Nigeria and Ghana. Oil tankers leaving Port Harcourt have always been targeted, as angry locals see their best natural resource extracted and refined by foreign corporations while they remain shut out of the enormous profits. However, the last couple of years has seen piracy expand to other trading vessels. In fact, it has seen the largest increase in armed intrusions at sea of any place on earth.
#3. Drake Passage. In the Northern Hemisphere, not many ships ever sail above sixty degrees. There is little reason to ship to Iceland or across the Bering Strait. However, in the Southern Hemisphere, ocean freighters are constantly skirting this parallel when they round the tip of South America, Tiera del Fuego. Here, the Antarctic Circumpolar Current carries a staggering volume of water: 600 times larger than the Amazon River. That’s a lot of frozen water whisking your craft in the opposite direction.
#2. Straits of Aden. Featured prominently in the Tom Hanks’ movie Captain Philips, the pirates of the Somali coast are now common knowledge. This means more and more freighters are taking precautions against them, and the number of heists in the Straits of Aden is in decline. In fact, that they are now in the #2 spot. Nonetheless, they still do strike at will, raiding ginormous ocean tankers with audacious tactics that would make Billy the Kid proud.
#1. Straits of Malacca. Getting from the Pacific Ocean to the Indian Ocean isn’t as easy as it looks. The sprawling islands of Indonesia prove to be formidable barriers. This results in a narrow ‘choke point’ called the Straits of Malacca.  Named after the sultan who controlled them for centuries, it’s estimated that one sixth of all world trade passes through
here. While piracy has always been an issue here, it has skyrocketed in recent years. Many attribute this to the never-ending Sumatran wildfires, which engulf the strait in a permanent haze. This makes it easier for pirates to sail unnoticed.  

Friday, September 16, 2016



A surprise announcement from UEFA this week has soccer fans across Europe scratching their heads. The decision involves the seeding for the coveted Champions League. Traditionally, the top performing teams from each nation earn the bids to the illustrious tournament. However, UEFA wants certain clubs to receive automatic bids to enter, regardless of their records. Called ‘Guaranteed Group Stage Placement,’ the concept is angering many.

Why the frustration? The plan favors famous and established teams over smaller, less significant clubs. This favoritism makes it even harder for small teams to succeed. Take Leicester FC, for example. Earlier this year, they beat longshot odds to win the English Premier League. But the honeymoon did not last long. Their team has been gutted by richer franchises, who snapped up their best players. Although the new season is only four games old, the Foxes are already in sixteenth place.

Let’s look closer at the new seeding. Four nations (England, Germany, Italy and Spain) would instantly get four teams into the Champions League. These include Arsenal, Man U and Chelsea from England and German giants Bayern Munich and FC Köln . Italy will send AS Roma, Juventus and AC Milan, while Spain gets to send current champs Real Madrid and star-studded Barcelona. The reason? These teams being in wealthy fans to the seats and lucrative TV contracts to UEFA. Smaller clubs simply don’t garner this phenomenal interest.

But what really has lesser Euro soccer teams worried is the current trend towards larger, international leagues. Talks are underway for a European-wide league that would include the sixteen Guaranteed Group clubs mentioned above. While the national leagues would remain intact, it's feared their best clubs would no longer take part. Even more alarming are the plans for a Worldwide Soccer Super League. This would have teams from the USA, Argentina and Brazil. (Let's hope they invent a cure for jet-lag!) 

Finally, the addition of Asian teams would complete the new, global soccer league. Guangzhou Evergrande and Shanghai SIPG are the fastest-growing franchises in the game. They are being groomed for the big time with some stellar additions to their lineups. Chinese investors have recently made a splash in the sport, acquiring huge stakes in Manchester United, Athletico Madrid and Lyon. The cards are lining up: It seems only a matter of time before the soccer world expands to the global level. Let’s just hope the underdogs don’t get forgotten.

Thursday, September 8, 2016



Can you say awkward? The recent meeting between US Presidential Candidate Donald Trump and Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto was truly bizarre. What could have been an opportunity to clarify and compromise quickly became a strange farce. See, Trump demanded a wall be built on the nation's shared 169-year border. NOW! Any attempt at debate by the Mexican President was futile. A forced press conference succeeded in showing how far apart the two nations have become over this touchy issue.

We here at the DUNER BLOG would like to remind everyone about the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. Signed by both nations in 1848, it sets the guidelines for the new international border. First off, it clearly states that the border should remain OPEN, with citizens of both nations allowed to cross at any time. In fact, for the next eighty years, the US / Mexico border could only be found only on maps. Anyone could wander back and forth. While you were subject to the law of each respective nation, you were free to work, earn money and buy property anywhere you pleased.

Aside from a misguided raid by Pancho Villa on Columbus, New Mexico in 1915, the international border has been a peaceful place. No more wars. Then, in 1924, the first official Border Patrol was established. The city of El Paso was the base for a large cavalry that roamed the deserts and prairies. Surprisingly, their aim was not to stop Mexicans from entering the US. Rather, the agency was on the patrol to catch American gangsters fleeing South. With Prohibition in full swing, there were many wanted men trying to do just that.

It really wasn't until the 1960's when things really began to change on the US / Mexican border. Activist Cesar Chavez shined light on the plight of the Bracero Workers. Millions of Mexican nationals were employed picking crops on the fields of California and Texas. This revelation lead to the regulation of the border in earnest. A fence was built and dozen offices were opened, checking passports and demanding work visas. While many Mexicans still crossed (legally, according to the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo) at non-patrolled areas, that number has decreased steadily. In fact, it's at a fifteen year low...a point President Pena Nieto brought up. Why the sudden fuss now, Senor Trump??

We here at the DUNER BLOG feel that International treaties MATTER. For example, the U.K. honored its centuries-old agreement to return Hong Kong to China. What Trump fails to recognize is the uniqueness of the US / Mexico relations. Prior to ceding five Western states to the USA back in 1848, Mexico demanded $15 million dollars and guaranteed land rights to Mexicans living in them. The US paid the money, but failed to protect the ranchero owners. It also re-negged on the Colorado River rights. Today, gringos drink up every drop before it hits the border. In summary, it's unfair to lump this complex situation in the same group as Europeans who entered through Ellis Island, like Trump's great grandfather did.