Weekly insights into our crazy world.

Thursday, March 31, 2016



It's officially Spring! That means DUNER BLOG readers are heading to the local florist to buy roses for the special people in their lives. However, our readers might not know the hidden meaning behind each rose color. For example, don't get your doctor red roses...unless you have amorous intentions. Likewise, yellow roses could send the wrong message to your wife. Confused? Let's clear things up:

RED ROSES: Percentage of purchases: 37%. Message: Romance.
There is no more enduring symbol of romance in Western society than a simple red rose. It started back in antiquity. Aphrodite carried one in her right hand. Shakespeare constantly references it in his sonnets, but Scottish poet Robert Burns wrote the most enduring verse:

"O! My love is like a red, red rose....That's newly sprung in June.."
"O! My love is like the melody...That's sweetly sung in tune.."

Also: Take the shade of red into consideration before your purchase. Bright red represents romance, but Burgundy implies a love that has yet to be fully realized..

PINK ROSES: Percentage of purchases: 27%. Message: Thank You.
Botanists have determined that pink is the oldest of all rose varieties, dating back 40 million years. Not surprisingly, it is the most common color found in the wild. The first known cultivation of pink roses was by ancient Chinese Emperors, but the flower reached its apex of popularity during the Victorian Era: It was the most popular wallpaper in England. Today, follow these simple rules to make sure you get your proper message across. Dark Pink = Gratitude. Medium = Get Well Soon. Light = Admiration.

WHITE ROSES: Percentage of purchases: 26%. Message: Pure Love.
Historians love the 14th century conflict The War of the Roses. Two English royal crests used Roses as their heraldic signs. White roses represented the House of York. They chose the color white because it has always been associated with light, purity and glory. Naturally, white roses are also popular for weddings and christenings. In short, when you display white roses, you convey respect and pay homage to new beginnings.

PURPLE / LAVENDER ROSES: Percentage of purchases: 18%. Message: Enchantment.
To show the wondrous feelings of 'Love At First Sight,' chose a silky lavender rose. This smooth shade conveys the intent for deeper love. Darker shades of purple are often associated with Royalty. So giving them suggests an air of regal majesty and splendor. For this reason, purple roses are a good choice to buy for yourself. Your house will instantly become a palace with a vase full of them on the dining room table.

YELLOW ROSES: Percentage of purchases: 15%. Message: Friendship.
Long associated with the sun, if you want to show someone warmth and joy, the yellow rose is key. In Eastern Cultures, yellow represents wisdom and power...two achievable things through friendship.
Just as the sun cheers you up, so do yellow roses. However, be careful. Yellow roses are not love roses--they suggest a platonic relationship. In fact, Italians view giving them to a lover as a sign of jealousy.

ORANGE ROSES: Percentage of purchases: 13%. Message: Happiness.
Of the major rose varieties, Orange is the newcomer. It wasn't until the 1900's when botanists blended yellow and red roses and introduced the new shade to the world. Symbolically, it can be seen as the bridge between the two: Friendship & Romance. Orange roses are seen as the 'Wild Child' of the Rose family, and are used today to light up someone else's day...without any direct meaning.

FINALLY, if you want to show all of these aspects of love, admiration and friendship, just buy a mixed bouquet.

Thursday, March 24, 2016



As everyone knows, the United Nations has repeatedly banned the import of luxury items into the horrific nation of North Korea. The plan is the punish the elite 1% of the population who rule the impoverished nation by denying them champagne and caviar. Yet...somehow...Kim Jung Un always manages to skirt around international sanctions. To add salt to our wounds, the dictator then takes pleasure in flaunting it to the rest of the world. Case in point: The opening of the Masik Pass Ski Resort just outside Pyongyang. Reports indicate the U.N. Luxury Ban is not being adhered to. Let's examine the photographic evidence.

Closer examination reveals North Koreans outfitted in some top gear before they hit the slopes. Somehow, they wear North Face ski jackets from California, Nordica ski boots made in Italy and Rossingnol skis handcrafted in France. After skiing, Kim Jung and his buddies like to guzzle Heineken beer and snack on Belgian chocolates. Hmmm.. It doesn't appear the United Nations is on top of the situation. US Spokesperson Mark Toner agrees: "We have eyes on how he spends his money, what merchandise he can acquire." But in today's world of online commerce, basically anyone can buy anything anywhere.

Indeed, when it comes to constructing Masik Pass, it is clear the dictator has some outside help. In fact, Beijing acknowledges supplying ski lift machinery. A spokesman clarified the action. "We take the view that skiing is a popular sport for the people." Likewise, a Swiss company oversaw the installation of the Austrian Doppelmeyr gondolas. Unfortunately, the UN clearly stated that "recreational sports equipment" counts as a luxury item. Clearly, a Polaris RMK 155 snowmobile from Minnesota would fall under this umbrella.

To his credit, Kim Jung has only officially released photos of smiling children at Masik Pass Ski Resort. Schools across the country are chosen at random for awesome field trips. Likewise, rates for common people are available. Unfortunately...as much as we would like to believe his benevolent rhetoric...critics remind us otherwise. Little Kim Jung grew up in Switzerland where he loved to ski. It's clear that his ultimate dream is to have North Korean athletes compete at the next Winter Olympics...held just over the border in Pyeongchang, South Korea in 2018.

In summary, the United Nations has become toothless when it comes to Korea. There has never been any North Korean signatures on any of the 1953 mandates after the Korean War, thus allowing the situation to steadily deteriorate without any direct action. The organization charged with defending the defenseless must take a stronger stance against Kim Jung Un. How can famines kill millions of North Koreans, when Chinese and South Koreans on either side of the border manage to thrive? Egocentric mismanagement of a nation with bountiful natural resources...that's how. George W. Bush was at least right about one thing: This nation's ruler is truly EVIL.

Thursday, March 17, 2016



Lots of our readers have been asking the DUNER BLOG about the crazy name-changing at Yosemite National Park. Let's sort this mess out!

What names are being changed? Two historic hotels and a campground complex are at the center of the controversy. The Ahwanhee Lodge (opened in 1927) is now the Majestic Yosemite Hotel. The Wawona Hotel (1876) should now be called the Big Trees Lodge. Finally, Curry Village is renamed as the Half Dome Village. We're sure this would have angered photographer Ansel Adams. When he stayed at the Ahwanhee, he marveled at the "luxury harmoniously within a forest." See, the 30,000 feet of timber conceal the 5,000 tons of granite and 1,000 tons of steel. He also enjoyed the tuxedo-clad pianist who performed nightly at the Grand Dining Room.

Why the sudden switch? This is California, which is all about two things: Lucrative business contracts and High-priced litigation. This one begins back in 1994, when the coveted concessionaire contract was up for renewal. Delaware North won and signed an agreement with the US Park Service to run Yosemite's public resorts. During this period, the company trademarked the three names in question, citing protection of retail profits. Now, to the present: Last year, service giant Aramark outbid others and was granted the new contract. Dejected, Delaware North refused to relinquish rights to the cherished names. Basically, Aramark was forced to manufacture the new titles until the court case is resolved.

Where do the words Ahwahnee & Wawona come from? American L.H. Bunnell of the Mariposa Battalion first mapped the region in the year 1851. Here's the situation: The peaceful Miwok tribe allied with the US Army. Their goal was to chase the Yosemite People out of the valley and open it up to white settlers. (Yosemite is Miwok for "People who kill.") They succeeded and Bunnell began naming sites. The valley itself is called Ahwahnee, Miwok for "Large River Bed." Similarly, Wawona means "Big Pine Tree." Which brings us to another question: Why would the US Patent Office allow a company in Wilmington, Delaware to copyright common words in a native American language?

Will the nasty spat ever be resolved? Currently, Aramark is forced to cover the historic signs with vinyl new ones barring the new, horribly unpopular, monikers. (Except for the granite Ahwanhee sign, which was stolen before it could be defaced!)  Anyhow...this is California...so it all comes down to MONEY. Delaware North demands $51 million to relinquish rights, not the paltry $3 million offered by the Park Service. Until a compromise is brokered, expect more posturing from both sides.

Just how embarrassing is this to California? Not as bad as Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, but still close. It's more evidence that greed controls the state and not common sense. Could you imagine the Eiffel Family suing France, demanding payment for the tower's naming rights? Despite this acrimony, there are some positive outcomes. Aramark won the concessionaire battle because they have ambitious plans to improve operations at Yosemite. $100 million dollars to be exact. They will reinstate the once wildly popular ice skating venue at the foot of the waterfall. A hipster-friendly wine and panini bar and a sourdough bakery are also coming.

But most importantly... Yosemite is all about NATURE. And the wet El Nino storms mean this year could be highest volume in the falls EVER!

Tuesday, March 8, 2016



Disturbing news from Tegucigalpa this week. The famous, internationally awarded activist Berta Cáseres was shot to death in the middle of the night in her home. Her murder surprised no one. She was on the 'Inter-American Commission for Human Rights' list for 'People with Multiple Death Threats.' To protect her, Cáseres was placed under the protection of the Honduran Army. Unfortunately...they were the ones who likely carried out the killing.

Why did this 44 year-old woman have so many haters? Simply put, Berta had the nerve to stand up for her people and their land rights. She appointed herself spokesperson for the 150,000 Lenca indigenous group, who have inhabited Southern Honduras since antiquity. They survived Mayan invasions. They survived the wrath of Spanish conquistador Pedro the Cruel. So the Lenca acted accordingly when in 2006, massive construction equipment suddenly appeared in the Rio Blanco Province.

It turns out the dredging barges were part of a joint venture by Chinese conglomerate SinoHydro and a shady local company named DESA. The latter had 'negotiated' the rights to build hydroelectric dams on the Gualcarque River. International law clearly states that local residents must be included in such decisions, especially when they involve a people's main source of food and water. Berta's protests were effective. Both companies admitted wrongdoing and withdrew from the Lenca region.

In addition to angering private companies, Berta has also gained the ire of the Honduran government. With financial help from the USA, the Honduran Air Force wants to develop sizable tracts of Lenca land as well. Specifically, they want to build an army base and expand an existing naval port. Again, Cáseres organized and won. But the victories come at a staggering cost. Next to her lifeless body was her Goldman Environmental Prize on the bookshelf.

The sad truth is that Honduras...the original Banana Republic...has always been saddled by arrogant political and economic intervention from the USA. Within 50 years of independence from Spain, the United Fruit Company arrived and negotiated lucrative land deals with corrupt presidents. They continue to clear rain forest, plant cash crops then move to a new plot when the soil is exhausted of minerals. Although the company changed its name to Chiquita, they have not changed business practices: In 2007, the company pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting a Colombian terrorist organization.

Remember, there is a lot of death behind the fact that you never pay more than a dollar per pound for bananas. Honduras' rate of 90 murders per 100,000 people is the highest in the world!

Wednesday, March 2, 2016



Not since 1848 has there been so much focus on the USA / Mexico International Border. It feels like another American / Mexican war is occurring. First, presidential candidate Donald Trump demanded that the nation of Mexico build a huge wall. Then, former Mexican president Vicente Fox replied; "No, way José! Even the Pope weighed in! Last month, he held an enormous Catholic Mass in Ciudad Juarez. Meanwhile, the event was simulcast on the big screen in the Sun Bowl Stadium across the Rio Grande River in El Paso, Texas. It seems everyone today has an opinion on what should be done to the troubled crossing.

First of all, why is this one border such a huge issue? Of the thousands of international borders worldwide, none has the immense disparity of wealth that exists between the USA and Mexico. This enormous difference in GNP directly influences the economies of the people who live nearby. Work is better on one side.. but affordable housing is better on the other. Hence, this border is the busiest in the world. An average of 230,000 legal crossings occur every single day. (Second place is the Chunnel Tunnel linking the UK and France at 46,500).

Secondly, the US / Mexico border is LONG. At 2,954 miles it is the tenth longest international boundary in the world. It boasts 45 official crossing stations, many of which are so busy they never close. While the areas around urban centers (Tijuana / San Diego & El Paso / Juarez) are heavily fenced and monitored, the large stretches across the Sonoran Desert are not. There are no demarcations whatsoever. And, as everyone knows, half a million migrants cross these dangerous stretches illegally every year. While the US Congress passed the Secure Fence Act of 2006, a whopping 61% of the border is still open to the rest of the world.

While politicians in far-off DC and popes in distant Rome voice their opinions of what should be done, the millions of people who live next to the border simply ignore them. Instead, they concentrate of ways to use the border to improve their lives. For example, 10% of the Tijuana labor force works in San Diego. Thousands of American college students live in low-rent Rosarito and commute to wealthy universities in La Jolla. With the help of the newly released US Passport Card, daily commuters can simply scan their way across the border.

Which brings us to the subject of this week's blog: The brand-new CROSS BORDER XPRESS BRIDGE. See, Tijuana International Airport is actually located a mere 390 feet from the border. However, it is horribly inaccessible, the terminal is located 20 miles from the nearest crossing.  In a true show of unity, the two nations built a simple pedestrian bridge to allow folks easy access to the facility. Believe it or not, the EXPRESS BRIDGE is the only binational airport terminal in the world: Check-in, customs and passport control all under the same roof! Lost in all the anger and debate, was this very positive event. See, there are solutions to the troubled international borders. Trump's shouting and Fox's gritos only cloud logic and should not be heard!