Saturday, October 21, 2017
This week's blog comes to us from a remote place, high above the Arctic Circle. Here, you'll find two of the world's largest islands: Greenland (#1) and Baffin (#4). The former is a colony of Denmark (with self rule). The latter is part of Canada's Northwest Territories. Wedged in between these two large landmasses you'll find tiny Hans Island, the unlikely subject of this week's submission. See, both Canada and Denmark claim this island as their own.
While the Arctic islands are enormous in size, they are tiny in population. Since they are mostly covered in permafrost, only a small sliver of southern coastal regions are habitable. Greenland's population is 56,000 people. (Green Bay, Wisconsin has twice as many!) Mostly native Inuit, the handful of settlements are serviced by the Danish and Canadian Navies. Their scheduled deliveries include medical supplies, petroleum and treasured can foods and soda. Afterward, they continue north, along the coast, for a most important ritual: Reclaiming Hans Island, their sovereign territory.
Soon thereafter, the Canadian Coast Guard saw these items. Alarmed, they went to the island to investigate. Afterward, they left behind: a sign claiming the island, a Canadian flag and a bottle of whiskey. Guess what happened the next time a Danish Navy squadron sailed by? Yep, they took down the Canadian flag, left a new sign and guzzled the schnapps. This so-called Whiskey War has been silently waged for decades, without a single casualty...other than a hangover. Pretty cool!
Friday, October 13, 2017
While Americans are busy debating what pro football players should do during the National Anthem, there have been many important developments overseas. A great example is the stunning developments from Iraq. Yesterday, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced that ISIS will be completely defeated by years' end!! While the hurricanes and shootings will certainly be remembered, we here at the DUNER BLOG feel the year 2017 will be defined by historians 100 years from now by this event.
Things really turned against ISIS last week. A joint force of Iraqi and Kurdish forces freed the strategic city Hawijaw last week. Across the border in Syria, Raqqa, the "capital" of the rouge state, is nearly recovered. These, combined with the fall of Mosul in July, has reduced the once-enormous "nation" to a couple of villages along the Syrian border. News sources in Europe have the story splashed across the front page, but in our local newspaper it was on page 14. Naturally, it was pushed back by the coverage of the Harvey Weinstein sex scandal.
Also encouraging are the high number of defections by ISIS soldiers. Thousands have surrendered to invading forces in Raqqa and Mosul. It's clear the luster of the horrid terrorist group is gone. Back in 2014, when ISIS defeated much more heavily armed troops, the leaders claimed they had divine intervention. This was integral in the brainwashing behind the rationalization of such horrid policies like child sex slaves and daily executions for trivial crimes. But the current losses show that no god would ever endorse such evil policies.
Thursday, October 5, 2017
Xenophobia is on the rise in American media. It's becoming increasingly difficult to find a positive news story from a foreign country. For example, do a quick Google search on Mexico. You'll see that eight of the ten items involve crime, cartels and narcos. It's even worse for Nigeria or Turkey. That's why we here at the DUNER BLOG are so excited about a 'feel-good' story from the most maligned nation on earth: Pakistan.
As everyone knows, superheroes have taken over worldwide. Five of the top ten grossing movies of 2017 involve Batman, Spider-Man and Wonder Woman. Then there's Comic-con. Ten thousand people cram into convention centers dressed in fantasy costumes. So it comes as no surprise that comic books are also popping up again in unlikely places like Pakistan.
Like Wonder Woman, Pakistan Girl uses her superpowers for GOOD. However, crimes are a bit different in her part of the world. For example: In one episode, our favorite heroine saves a girl taken hostage by a bribe-seeking policeman. BAM! In another, she whips a man who assaults a woman in the marketplace. SNAP! "There is a huge shortage of female role models here" noted author Hassan Siddiqui. "She is someone the girls of Pakistan can look up to."
Saturday, September 30, 2017
September has been a tough month for North America. Three deadly hurricanes have ravaged Texas, Florida and the Caribbean. Two massive earthquakes struck in Mexico. Even a volcano is erupting! We here at the DUNER BLOG are optimists and struggled to find positive items to cover amidst the tragedies. At first we wanted to report about Frida, the super-sniffing dog who finds people trapped in the rubble. While the pooch is definitely blog-worthy, we instead chose to write about one building that cannot be toppled by any temblor: The Latin American Tower.
It didn't take long after opening day for the building's design to be tested. The very next year, a 7.9 Richter Scale earthquake struck Mexico City. It toppled the Angel of Independence Monument, but the Latin American tower survived. Although the golden angel will always be the main symbol of the city, the tower became a new favorite as well. The next year, the building received an 'Award of Merit' from the American Steel Institute. It became the "tallest building ever exposed to a huge seismic force." It would survive the horrific 1985 earthquake as well.
Friday, September 22, 2017
Last month, the American restaurant chain Denny's launched a new ad campaign. Designed to promote the ever-popular 'Grand Slam Breakfast,' the pitch centers around a new cartoon mascot: The un-creatively named 'Sausage.' Since the marketing blitz began, Sausage has been bombarded on social media. He's been called a 'terd in a fedora' and many are questioning what ad agency could blunder so badly. While we here at the DUNER BLOG agree that Sausage is indeed a failure, he's not nearly as bad as past fast-food mascots in the past. Here's our TOP FIVE:
#4. Taco Bell Chihuahua. During the nasty 'Burger Wars' of the 1990's...when McDonald's and Burger King viciously attacked each other...Taco Bell took another marketing approach. Meet Gidget, a six-pound Chihuahua. What began as regional ads in New England quickly spread to a national
#3. Quizno's Rats. The most baffling entry on the list comes courtesy of the submarine sandwich chain Quizno's. While most people associate rats with dirt, grime and disease, one ad firm saw the rodents as cute, cuddle and wacky. In oddly filmed commercials, the rats would appear and speak in strange rodent
#2. The Noid. For decades, Domino's guaranteed pizzas would be delivered in thirty minutes or less. To promote this, a series of commercials were released with a new character. The spotscentered around a rabbit-eared loony dressed in a tight red leotard. The large 'N' on his chest stood for Noid. Filmed in Claymation, the bumbling bandit tries to thwart delivery attempts. The main idea is to 'Avoid the Noid' and get your pizza on time. After numerous reckless incidents involving
#1. The King. On Halloween, the worst costume is the simple plastic mask. Only the eyes move and the mouth is stuck in a permanent, creepy and fake smile. Nonetheless, the folks at Burger King continue to frighten children and adults alike with relentless spots on TV featuring "The King." The silent spokesman just sits next to diners at the fast food chain in cringe-worthy encounters. BK gets the top spot on this dubious list because he is the only mascot still on air. Enough already!!
Thursday, September 14, 2017
The 178-acre University of California campus in Berkeley is full of wonders. There's the 307-foot tall Campanile, a near replica of the bell tower in Venice, Italy. (only two feet shorter). That's still good enough to be the third-tallest worldwide. With twelve million books, the Doe Library is the sixth largest in the nation. Sproul Plaza is still home to protests, but it's most fondly remembered for the Free Speech Movement in 1964. All of these sites are connected by forests of Redwood, Aspen and Oak trees. Surprisingly, this is where today's news item comes from!
Here's the nitty-gritty of the two-year study. Students placed groups of nuts in random places in the forests. They contained pecans, almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts...sixteen different types. It didn't take long for the squirrels to scuttle down from the trees to snatch them up. Then, using GPS trackers, the researchers identified 45 separate squirrel. Next, they followed them to their tree homes and observed something fascinating. Squirrels organize their homes much like humans do: Each type of nut was placed together in an orderly fashion. Even when they mixed up the nuts, the squirrels would re-arrange them in the correct order.
Friday, September 8, 2017
Last week, the rogue state of North Korea conducted their sixth successful nuclear detonation. For a nation with a population of 25 million, this country has a lot of weapons. Their army has a million troops. This makes it the fourth largest on earth...with more soldiers than Russia! The People's Army of Korea is well armed too. They've got five thousand rockets launchers, four thousand tanks and two thousand armored vehicles. Let's face it, this nation is armed to the teeth!
Yet nothing in this arsenal can compare to North Korea's most valuable weapon of all: a 74 year-old lady named Ri Chun Hee. For decades, she been the anchor on the nation's only news channel, KCTV. She often wears a colorful Choson-ot (a traditional dress) and is nicknamed the "Pink Lady." Although retired four years ago, she returns to the airwaves to report on big events...like last week's BIG test. Beaming with joy, Hee proclaimed it was a "perfect success" and a "meaningful step toward completing our nuclear program." You don't need to speak Korean to see her genuine pride and admiration as she reports horrific news.
You might think we're exaggerating here at the DUNER BLOG, but let's face it: Every powerful evil regime has a polished spokesperson who can convince the population their actions are benevolent and true. Germans were brainwashed into Nazi thought by the powerful oration of Joseph Goebbels. The Soviet Union employed Sergey Lapin, who famously turned Olympic athletes into national heroes. And don't forget Iraq's Tariq Aziz, the urbane newsman who daftly declared Baghdad had not fallen to the US troops...minutes before they entered the television studio.
Saturday, September 2, 2017
Every year, the Economist magazine list their index of the most 'livable' cities worldwide. They employ a complex formula to determine this seemingly arbitrary ranking. It involves criteria like climate, crime, culture, education, transportation and healthcare. Scores fell across the USA, due to "unrest, racial violence and demonstrations," with Honolulu as the top scoring city. Let's look at the top three:
#1. Melbourne, Australia. For the seventh straight year, this southern Australian city has topped the list. Sports fans know Melbourne from the Australian Open, the first stop on tennis' Grand Slam. It also hosted the 1956 Olympics. The seaside city also scored high on transportation. Although the metro population is four million, Melbourne is home to the largest tram network in the world. Since the city sits on the same latitude as the Mediterranean, it has a splendid climate and lots of immigrants from Italy and Greece. They brought with them great food and culture. Add in a practically non-existent crime rate, and you've got the best city on earth.
Finally, let's look at the least livable cities on earth. At dead last in 140th place is Damascus. It's been awhile since the Prophet Mohammad called the city the closest place to heaven on earth. Thanks to four years of horrific urban civil war, this once splendorous oasis is now heaps of rubble. Next up: Baghdad. Same story, different city. Something tells us the residents of both cities would prefer living under a dictator than living in poverty and fear with glorious democracy. Ten years ago, both places were in the middle of the rankings..
Saturday, August 26, 2017
The poor fruitcake. It's America's most lampooned dessert. No, it's not the simple ingredients. You just add candied fruit, diced nuts, a dash of spices to your basic flour cake. Rather, it is fruitcake's impressive shelf-life that is the source of ridicule. Since the fruit is candied and nuts are dry, most fruitcakes last three months...some up to a year...before spoiling. This is where the notoriety starts. Famed talk-show host Johnny Carson often joked that their is actually only one fruitcake in the USA...it just passes from family to family.
You're asking: How long have fruitcakes been around? Forever! Naturally, ancient Romans were the first. They mixed in pomegranate seeds, raisins and pine nuts into their bread. Medieval times saw the addition of honey and dried fruit. But the fruitcake really took off in the 1600's. That's when products from the tropics first came to England. Cones of sweet sugar flooded the European market, giving rise to the horrendous Sugar-Slavery triangular trade. But, let's face it...even today...most people have no idea how delicious foods came to their lands; they just came up with tasty ways to eat them!
Thursday, August 17, 2017
Across the US, people are counting down. The first complete solar eclipse in 99 years is just days away! Throngs of stargazers have besieged Portland, OR and Nashville, TN...the only major cities on the totality passage...places where the entire sun will be blotted out my the moon. Sales of eclipse glasses dominate Amazon.com. Tabloids are warning of swamp creatures, awakened only by a rare astronomical events. Yep, America is celebrating the solar eclipse in every way imaginable.
At first, the Carib people were friendly. They gladly traded food for beads and trinkets. However, after six months, both sides grew angry and began to fight. Although superiorly armed, Columbus' men were weak and weary. It looked like the voyage would end in tragedy...then Columbus had an idea. According to the almanac, a lunar eclipse was coming. He met with the Cacique with a threat. Columbus told the chief that his mighty Christian god would destroy the moon if he did not comply. It worked. Carib workers not only fed the Spaniards, but also helped repair their boat and Columbus returned to Spain, never to sail again.
Saturday, August 12, 2017
Last month, the governor of Augascalientes presided over a special event: The opening of a brand-new Nissan production facility in the capital city. Carlos Lozano de la Torre stood shoulder to shoulder with a handful of representatives from Japan and his full-time Spanish / Japanese translator. The plant is enormous...21 million spare feet of factory will produce 175,000 Nissan Sentras in the first year. They'll accomplish this by never closing the plant. Well...okay...it will be open 23 hours a day, six days a week. Sunday is important in Mexico.
It's not just Nissan that's investing in Mexico. In the neighboring state of Jalisco, Honda recently opened a cavernous facility near Guadalajara. To the north, General Motors runs a plant in Guanajuato. You'll find Chrysler in Toluca and Kia in Monterrey. BMW, Mazda, Mercedes, you name it...they have a factory in Mexico. In terms of dollars, auto manufacturers have invested $22 billion in the last two years alone.
But that's not to say that all cars made in Mexico are shipped to the US. Nope, many are sold in the domestic market. Just ask Volkswagen. Back in 1964, they were the first company to open a factory in Mexico. Their plant in Puebla remains the largest VW plant outside of Germany, employing over 13,000 workers. For decades, their top model was the ubiquitous Beetle. Mexicans fell in love with this car and bought tens of thousands of them. Even today, you'll see tons of bugs on the streets of any Mexican city.
Wednesday, July 12, 2017
Just in case you haven't turned on the radio lately, there is now an official song of the summer. It's called Despacito and it's already been #1 on the pop charts for nine weeks in a row. What makes this pop song so unique is the fact that 90% of the lyrics are in Spanish. Let's go over some obvious questions.
Who sings Despacito? Like most pop hits today, there are multiple artists collaborating together on one song. Here, the main credits are split evenly been the singer (Luis Fonsi) and the rapper (Daddy Yankee). It's the first #1 single for both artists, despite the fact that both have been recording music for decades. It's NOT the first #1 for the featured artist, Justin Bieber. In fact, Justin is also at #2 on the Billboard Singles Chart as well with 'I'm the One.'
Is Despacito the first US #1 to be sung in Spanish? Actually, Despacito is the third chart-topper en español to reach the coveted #1 spot. The first one was Los Lobos' remake of 'La Bamba.' Originally sung by Richie Valens, the East LA band spent three weeks atop the charts in 1987. The second song is also very familiar: The Macarena by Los Del Rio. It spent a massive 14 weeks at #1 in 1997, making it one of the biggest tracks of all time. Love it or hate it, you'll see people dancing the Macarena at weddings, bar mitzvahs and baseball games until you die.
How has Despacito helped Puerto Rico? In the track, Fonsi croons: "This is how we do it down in Puerto Rico, I just wanna her you scream "¡Ay Bendito!" See, both Fonsi and Daddy Yankee were born in the US territory. The sultry video, which has 2 billion YouTube views, was shot in the La Perla district of San Juan, resulting in a wave of interest. According to COCHA, a Latin American Travel firm, tourism in Puerto Rico has increased 45% since the song's release. Hotels.com confirmed a major spike in reservations as well. We here at the DUNER BLOG aren't convinced the two are directly related, but it's a nice coincidence nonetheless.
Saturday, July 8, 2017
This week, we're off to southeastern Africa. Here, an amazing wildlife re-settlement is currently underway. Six thousand elephants, water buffaloes, zebras, giraffes, wildebeests and kudos...just to name a few...are being loaded into enormous trucks in Zimbabwe. From there, they'll travel 400 difficult miles across the border to Zinave National Park in Mozambique. The ambitious re-settlement program is unprecedented; not since Noah's Ark have humans overseen such an enormous animal migration.
Why all the fuss? Don't animals just use Uber like the rest of us? (Joke). The goal is to re-populate part of the Limpopo River Basin that has been devastated by poachers. Overseen by the Peace Parks Foundation, Operation African Animal Ark also employs 120 humans as well. Veterinarians, truck drivers, ecologists and, of course, professional game capturers are doing some pretty dangerous work. When completed by the end of the year, a delicate ecological balance will be restored.
While this is a valid point, it is also an admission of defeat. Let's dig deeper into her quote. Interestingly enough, while poachers are vile in everyway, trophy hunters are not. Believe it or not, Wilfried Pabst, the owner of the Sango Wildlife Conservatory that is donating most of the animals, is one of them! Over 60% of his profits come from hunters who shell out $20,000 to shoot a lion on his land. "In remote places with a weak tourism industry it is almost impossible to run a conservancy like Sango without sustainable utilization (a euphemism for trophy hunting)." Pabst oversees one of the largest reserves in Africa, so his message really resonates.
Friday, June 30, 2017
Beach lovers beware! So far, there have been 15 shark incidents reported in California this year. This already surpassed last year's total. The worst incident occurred last month in San Diego when 35 year-old Leeanne Erickson waded in knee deep water. Suddenly, a juvenile Great White snatched her leg. Thankfully, helpful surfers quickly reacted and saved her. It's not just Southern California that is awash in shark attacks. A North Carolina woman was also nipped as were British tourists in Majorca. To help our readers who swim, here are five ways to survive a shark attack:
DON'T PLAY DEAD. While this will work great when attacked by a bear or a terrorist, sharks are different. They are primarily scavengers and will eat anything. Heck, they've found car tires, Igloo coolers and life preserving jackets in shark bellies. They are not picky and will swallow first and think never.
KEEP YOUR EYES PEELED. Your instincts will tell you to flee. But even Michael Phelps cannot out swim a shark. Instead, keep looking at the beast and slowly tread water in reverse. If you turn and swim away, you instantly become prey. However, if you act tough, the stupid shark will hesitate instead of instantly killing you.
LEAVE JEWELRY ON SHORE. Where do you think the term 'Loan Shark' comes from? Kidding. However, sharks are attracted to sparkly and glittery objects. They resemble fish scales, and sharks will think you are their favorite food. Remember, sharks rarely actually consume humans...people are unusual and just resemble their normal prey.
HIDE FROM THE SHARK. The species has survived since the Jurassic Period because of its amazing jaws...not because of intellect. Fool the shark! Skin divers are told to stay close to the boats. If they see a shark, they should put their backs against the hull and stay still. Sharks are impatient and will simply hunt elsewhere.