Weekly insights into our crazy world.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017



Last Friday, authorities at Frankfurt Airport announced the seizure of 39 tons of Fidget Spinners. The dozens of crates holding the dreaded, 'must have' toy of 2017 are currently being crushed into tiny bits in a warehouse in neighboring Mannheim. Customs officials clarified: The confiscated items had loose parts that posed choking habits. Furthermore, the Fidget Spinners lacked proper paperwork and instructions. Normally, defective goods are simply returned to the factory. However, the Chinese manufactures declined. See, the shipping costs outweigh the value of the merchandise. Anyhow...regardless of the motivation...German authorities did what the rest of the world desperately wants: The immediate destruction of all Fidget Spinners worldwide.

Never heard of a Fidget Spinner? Sure...some readers don't interact with kids much or don't live near a Chinatown...so here's a quick description: A disc and a bearing are placed in the center of a three-sided star made of plastic or metal. Kids spin the outer sections while balancing the non-moving part on their thumb, finger, nose, chin, etc. Deluxe spinners can be adjusted for spin time, vibration and (annoying humming) noises. Simple and extremely profitable. Fidget Spinners held all 15 top spots on May's Amazon.com's Toy Sales chart.

However, it's not the spinning part that makes this toy so out-worldly popular. (After all...yo-yo's just spin, but you don't see them in toy stores anymore.) Nope, what makes Fidget Spinners popular is their ability to help children with ADHD concentrate. They alleviate the need for the constant stimulation and allow a kid to pay attention better. One brand bills itself as "Great for ADD, ADHD, Autism & Anxiety." This appeals to many desperate parents. See, Fidget Spinners aren't toys...they are medical intervention. A wondrous stress reliever...For just $5.99!

Sounds great, but let's dig deeper into the studies backing this claim up. They only problem is the lack of any actual scientific research whatsoever. The closest we could find was an article by Cat Bowen, a lifestyle writer at Romper.com. She noted her autistic son improved on math homework when he used a Fidget Spinner. This factoid then entered the Internet and soon became Fake News. Now Middle School teachers nationwide are clamoring to make sense of the situation, as kids claim they are not toys. Sadly, banning them from classrooms has only succeeded in making them more popular with kids!

Back to Frankfort Airport. While the reasoning for the confiscation of the Fidget Spinner was solidly administrative, we can't help but feel the actual motivation was elsewhere. Socialist countries are more protective of children. For example: It's illegal for cartoon characters to hawk sugary cereals on TV ads. Germans view Fidget Spinners as a menace. They understand that exactly the opposite is also occurring. Some ADHD kids succeed while spinning, but the vast majority just stare at the spinner and don't learn at all. Free-market nations like the USA and Mexico are constantly vulnerable to scams like this, and the Germans do not want to fall for it!

Saturday, June 17, 2017



One of the most memorable moments in US politics is the Nixon / Kennedy Presidential Debate in 1960. Prior to the televised event, Nixon enjoyed a double-digit lead in the polls. However, after appearing sweaty and yucky next to the dashing and clean-shaven Kennedy, Dick was defeated. The message: You don't have to be handsome to be a world leader...But it helps! This is proving to be true in 2017 as well. A horde of hunky men have burst onto the international stage. Here's a current Top Five:

#5. Borut Pahor, Slovenia. Melania isn't the only gorgeous creature to come from this tiny Alpine country! Meet Borut. No...he's nothing like the offensive movie character Borat. Just the opposite, actually. Prime Minister Pahor is refined and charming, with crystal clear blue eyes that have ladies' hearts a-flutter all across Central Europe. Although not married, he has a 4 year-old son with his partner, Tanja Pešar. Keep an eye out for Borut in the near future. He thinks Ljubljana would be a perfect neutral site for a Trump / Putin summit. So does Melania.

#4. Jovenel Moïse, Haiti. Not only is he handsome, but Jovenel is also beautiful on the inside. His goal in life is to bring higher standards of living to the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere. Somehow, he secured billions of dollars in loans. Unlike many other shady Caribbean leaders, Jovenel has NOT embezzled a franc. Instead he's built water purification plants and used solar and wind generators to bring electricity to the slums. Sadly, he has an uphill battle ahead of him. France has never admitted the historical wrongs of their slave past in Haiti and needs to take a more active role in correcting these errors.

#3. Enrique Pena Nieto, Mexico. When elected five years ago, pollsters in Mexico estimated Enrique received a whopping two-thirds of the female vote. (Maybe they thought they were voting for Enrique Iglesias). They love his policies and his
baby-face smile and boyish charm. He needs all the love in Mexico today. Trump has placed him in a lose/lose situation. Standing up to America hurts the Mexican economy. Giving in to America hurts your popularity at home. EPN had only has one year left and Mexican presidents cannot be re-elected. Let's see if anyone else can do a better job balancing this difficult and complex issue..

#2. Emmanuel Marcon, France. During the Clinton impeachment proceedings, all of France wondered what Bill did wrong. See, the
French have very liberal notions in terms of love and marriage. Take Marcon for example. He married his High School Drama teacher...who is 24 years older. They don't have any kids, but two of his three step-children are older than him. None of this mattered to French voters who elected their youngest president ever in May. Last month, he garnered international praise when he scolded Trump for abandoning the Paris Climate Accord. "Make Earth Great Again!" he clamored.

Photos courtesy of TMZ
#1. Justin Trudeau, Canada. C'mon! This one is so obvious. In the two years since assuming the office of Prime Minister, Justin has been on many magazine covers. However...in addition to The Economist, Time and Newsweek...he's also graced the cover of Cosmopolitan, Elle, Woman's Day magazines as well. The Internet is constantly trending some ten-year old shirtless or beach photos of Justin. You get the point. Of course: He's married with kids. Sadly, that still hasn't stopped women from trying to break into Rideau Hall to get a glimpse of his Raven tattoo.

Saturday, June 10, 2017



Seemingly overnight, nine Arab nations have turned on Qatar. They've suspended diplomatic relations and severed all economic ties. Planes are grounded, harbors are silent and people are worried. Why the fuss? Qatar is being called out for supporting terrorism and Iran. As with most complicated international crises, people turn to the DUNER BLOG for answers. Let's get to the mailbox.

Where in world is Qatar? About the size of Maryland, Qatar sticks out like a thumb on the Arabian Peninsula. Surrounded by the Persian Gulf on three sides, it sits on enormous oil and natural gas reserves. The name dates back to ancient Rome, when famed geographer Ptolomy called the land 'Catara.'

Why is Qatar in trouble? For the last decade, the Arab community has accused Qatar of supporting the Muslim Brotherhood. This century-old organization originally supported a pan-Arab state, but has recently wavered toward Islamic fundamentalism. Saudi Arabia and the UAE label them a terrorist organization. However, the straw that broke the camel's back was a recent post by the Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim al Hamad al Thani. He showed his support of hated economic and religious rival Iran. He called them an 'Islamic Power' and criticized US policies toward Tehran. That's a big "No-no" for a Sunni nation, even if it is true..

What are the hacking allegations? As always these days, any international story must involve Russian hackers. The Emir says he never issued any Pro-Iran statements. He blames...wait for it...Russian hackers for the Fake News. While this seems preposterous, Internet pirates do have a reputation for stirring up trouble and kicking hornet's nests whenever possible. Current congressional hearings in the US Congress are discovering that direct links to anything are not easy to find.

Isn't Qatar rich enough to ride this out? With a per-capita income of $147,000 tiny Qatar is the wealthiest nation on earth. It's also the most reliant on foreign labor. Native Qataris are a minority in their own state, only comprising 12% of the population. These uber-rich people have the fantastic financial reserves will not be rationing food. However, it's the other 88% that is cause for worry. The Pakistani and Bangladeshi guest workers will be hit the hardest.

What are the global impacts? Qatar is an OPEC member, so the embargo has already resulted in a small spike in petroleum prices worldwide. Otherwise, the impacts will be largely symbolic. On one hand, this is yet another move in the endless chess game between Sunni and Shi'ite states in the Persian Gulf. On the other hand, it is one of the few times any Islamic state has acted economically against a terrorist-supporting nation. This is important. Until the Islamic world ends its cultural acceptance of suicide bombings as 'part of life,' the rest of the world will be on constant red alert

Saturday, June 3, 2017



This year, California experienced its rainiest year in 122 years of record keeping. This has resulted in mudslides all over the Golden State. The most notable is on the coast near Big Sur. Just how big is the slide? The USGS estimates that 13 acres of coastline have been created by the slide, totaling in 71 million cubic feet of dirt. Sadly, famed Highway #1 will be closed for a year as Caltrans tries to dig out 80 feet of mud on the roadway. This inspired us at the DUNER BLOG to rank the five best shoreline drives NOT closed this summer:

#5. Ruta #1, Chile. Similar to California's Route #1, this Chilean Highway hugs the jagged Pacific coastline in dramatic fashion. It tallies a whopping 438 kilometers of spectacular views. What separates this stretch of road from others is the amazing spectrum of natural wonders the driver encounters. It begins in the Atacama, the world's driest desert, which looks more like the moon than earth. Along the way, you'll see pink sand dunes, hot springs, geysers on one side of the road and stunning steep cliffs and long sandy beaches on the other.

#4. Great Ocean Road, Australia. When Aussie soldiers returned home from the Great War, the government put them to work building this lengthy coastal highway. They dedicated it to the soldiers who didn't make it home...making the Great Ocean Road the largest war memorial on earth. To accomplish this, workers carved out a thin strip of road from the 500-foot high ocean cliffs. The highlight is the famous 12 Apostles limestone foundations. Keep your eyes peeled for wildlife as well. Anteaters, kangaroos, parrots and penguins complete a fantastic array of exotic animals.

#3. The Road to Hana, Hawaii. Although only 52 miles long, this road feels much, much longer. That's because there are 600 hairpins turns and 54 one-lane bridges to slow you down tremendously. But that's a good thing. Otherwise, you might miss the ten waterfalls, thousand-foot cliff drops and the tiny coves of gorgeous black sand beaches. Also impressive is the lush vegetation that covers parts of the road in a fragrant canopy. It takes around three hours to drive to the town of Hana. Do the math: Your average speed is 13 miles per hour.

#2. Overseas Highway, Florida. Originally built for trains by an entrepreneur way back in 1910, the goal was to connect 18 islands off the southernmost tip of Florida. Then, in 1935 the Labor Day Hurricane washed away 30 miles of the railway line. When restored, the tracks were removed and replaced with highway. Today, there are 42 separate bridges, the longest being the Seven-Mile Bridge at Marathon. It's appeared in many movies, including Mission Impossible, Fast & the Furious and in 007: License to Kill. All in all, it takes five hours to drive the entire 113 miles. Try to do it at sunset, when a unique spectrum of pink, purple and orange fill the sky.

#1. Amalfi Coast Road, Italy. Clocking in at the top spot is State Route #163 which runs from Sorrento to Salerno on Italy's rugged Amalfi Coast. Originally constructed by ancient Romans, the highway today has two lanes. If you're scared of heights, drive in the Northern direction. Otherwise, you car door will be inches away from 1,000 foot cliffs with only a tiny metal railing separating you and the Mediterranean Sea way below. Also thrilling are the daredevil Italian motorists, who'll speed and brake continuously. Not surprisingly, the Amalfi Coast Road has also been in dozens of movies (the best being Bogart's Beat the Devil) and even video games (Gran Turismo 4). Both display the road's precarious curves with little to separate you from the craggy sea boulders below. Not for the fainthearted!

Tuesday, May 23, 2017



There's nothing DUNER BLOG loves better than a Royal Wedding! Although Pippa isn't technically a member of the House of Windsor, lots of royals showed up...so that's close enough! Anyhow, after countless interviews from 'close sources,' we've complied some highlights from the momentous occasion.

ROYAL ATTENDEES. While the Queen, Prince Philip, Charles & Camilla did not attend the nuptials in Berkshire, plenty of younger royals did. Front and center was Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge, who served as the Maid of Honour. Her hubby, Prince William was helping out with their two toddlers. See, Princess Charlotte and Prince George were the flower girl and pageboy. Also in the bridal party was Princess Eugenie and Countess Philippa Hoyas.

THE DRESS. Pippa shone brightly in a stunning white lace gown with dramatic cap-sleeves. Made by famed designer Giles Deacon, it cost around £40,000...what a bargain! Meanwhile, fashion critics have been quick to sour on the choice of her sister. Kate wore an Alexander McQueen ensemble that clearly underwhelmed. Described as drab and unimaginative, it was unlike her usual fashion savvy. We here at the DUNER BLOG know why she said yes to this dress. As a bride, she was overshadowed by Pippa at her own wedding. A true royal doesn't get even, but instead plays it forward.

THE UNWANTED GUEST. For the last year, Prince Harry has been dating C-List American actress Meghan Markle. Speculation about her attending the wedding has been swirling around tabloids for months. However, since the two are NOT married, this would be a clear violation of Pippa's rule for attending the ceremony: No Ring, No Bring. So after the ceremony, Prince Harry drove to Kensington Palace, picked Meghan up, and then drove fifty miles back to the reception....where Pippa does allow girlfriends. Apparently, Meghan wore a black dress, but we cannot verify this report.

THE AWKWARD TOAST. Weddings are tough. You can spend a million dollars. You can invest a thousand hours. But you cannot control the weather (it rained), nor can you control what the Best Man will say in his speech. Justin Johannsen began his toast by comparing Pippa to a dog "they both come on command.." Cringeworthy jokes continued about where he kept the ring, but he finished strong. "You warm the hearts of everyone who knows you" he told Pippa. "And you have won the heart of the best man I know." Awww!

THE GROOM. James Matthews is an London investment banker. The financier comes from a wealthy family (No surprise) and he stands to inherit half of Scotland upon his father's death. James loves to play polo and holiday in the South of France. While he seems right for the job, we just wish Pippa had considered marrying a successful blogger instead!

Saturday, May 20, 2017



The most frightening development in the Trump presidency isn't what you think. It doesn't involve surprise attacks in Syria, department heads being suddenly fired or health plans being cancelled. Nope, what scares us most at the DUNER BLOG is the continued blurring of the line between celebrity and politician. Inspired by The Donald's leap from NBC reality TV to the Oval Office, dozens of actors, talk-show hosts and singers are now contemplating a presidential candidacy in 2020. Here are the Top Five to worry about:

#5. Kanye West. Long before Trump won his first primary, the quixotic hip-hop icon stated his intentions for the White House in 2020. Like most candidates, he made the announcement at the MTV Music Award Show. While clutching the Moon-Man statue for Video Vanguard, Kanye ended his 10-minute rant with: "As you've probably guess: Yes, I will run for President in 2020." Let's hope the rambling rapper changes his mind on this one. Kim Kardashian as First Lady seems downright weird.

#4. Katy Perry. Given the sub-par effort shown on her latest album, Witness, it seems Katy's mind is elsewhere these days. During the election, Katy became an avid Hilary supporter, appearing beside her at numerous events and tweeting up a storm. While Ms. Perry has yet to make a grandiose statement like Kanye, she did drop a serious hint on Instagram last year. At a gala, Katy posted a photo of herself sandwiched between two former presidents, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. She captured it "42, 43...46?!" thus referring to herself as the 46th president. While no one can doubt Ms. Perry's enthusiasm, it would be nice to have someone in the White House with a college degree.

#3. The Rock. While Kanye and Katy's careers are in decline, Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson is clearly on top. Raking in $64.5 million last year, he's the highest paid actor on earth. In an interview in this month's GQ Magazine, he stated he would gladly leave Hollywood behind for a higher calling. As an independent, he would make bipartisanship his top priority. "Disagreement informs us," The Rock notes. He isn't shy about his anger towards Trump and his "snap judgment" on immigration policy. But mostly, we think it would also be fun to see him wrestle with Putin at a G8 Summit!

#2. Mark Zuckerberg. Perhaps the most qualified entry on our list is the Harvard grad and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. While the billionaire spends lavishly on himself, he seems to have a soft side. His philanthropic organization, the Chan-Zuckerberg Initiative, already touts many politicians as members. It seems Mark is also behaving like a politician these days. He's on a quest to visit all 50 states by years' end. Last month, Mark went to a Ford factory in Michigan and a fire station in Indiana. At both stops, he meets with locals, listens to their problems and then posts everything on Facebook. Unlike the singers on this list, Mark has proven his amazing creativity with an invention that has touched a billion people worldwide.

#1. Oprah Winfrey. While the other four folks on this list seemed pumped and ready to run, the Queen of Daytime Talk has been curiously quiet on the matter. Her friend Gayle makes hints and her publicist is coy, but nothing official has come from Ms. Oprah on the matter. This hasn't stopped pollsters from asking Americans what they think about her. They found she has one trait that no other candidate has: Likability. 82% of Democrats and 52% of Republicans have a favorable opinion of the Talk-show host. As they say on TV: "STAY TUNED, AMERICA!"

Wednesday, May 10, 2017



Over the weekend, Olympic Marathon champion Eliud Kipchoge smashed the all-time record by two and a half minutes! Why wasn't this the top story on ESPN's SportsCenter? Well, the race was not officially sanctioned by the IAAF. In fact, it wasn't even a race actually. See, Kipochoge ran in a completely controlled environment, aided by anything possible (except steroids) to help the runner. The goal of the event, (named Breaking2) was to break the elusive two-hour mark, which no human has ever accomplished. Although Eliud bested the world record, he was 25 seconds over two hours. Curious? Let's answer the obvious questions:

What were the alterations? First, it was held on the Monza Formula One Racetrack in Italy, which has the optimum climate for distance running. Next, race time was oddly at 5:45 am, when only Kenyans enjoy running. Then, there were the pace setters: Two-time Boston Marathon champ Lelisa Desisa & Zersenay Tadese, the current half-marathon champ. Also helping with the pacing was a green light that shone on the ground by an electric Tesla driving in front. If Eliud simply kept up with the line, he could finish in two hours flat. Finally, he had mopeds deliver fluids while he ran.

Why are Kenyans such great distance runners? Since the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City, Kenyans and Ethiopian runners have dominated distance events. One reason is genetics. This part of the world has people with a body type featuring longer legs and a smaller rib cage than other folks. Next, both nations have high altitudes. Runner's bodies adjust to functioning with less oxygen. Socially, these regions rely on walking great distances for water sources, school and work. Kenyans don't drive their kids around town. Finally....like baseball players from the Caribbean...distance running is seen as the only way out of extreme poverty.

Why do we obsess about Marathons? Funny, nothing else from the Greco-Persian Wars remains relevant today. But the Battle of Marathon still permeates. While horribly outnumbered, the Greek city-states had one major advantage over the Persians: Smarts. Knowing that the cavalry was the Persian's strength, the Greeks lured their enemy into the soggy marshes where the horses' hooves got stuck. Since there were no cellphones in 490BC, a messenger named Philippides was chosen to run to Athens with news of the stellar victory. He sprinted the 26 miles before announcing; "νενικήκαμεν" Historians debate the validity of the tale, but Olympic founder Pierre du Coubertin didn't care. In the first modern games in 1896, he re-created the race with a big finish in Athens. Since then, the event has evolved into the ultimate challenge in track.

Who pays for all this? Nike funded the entire event. They're hoping bloggers mention that next month, a new Zoom Vaporfly Elite running shoe is coming to a sporting goods store near you. Oops. While the CEO back in Oregon is disappointed Kipchoge didn't break the two-minute barrier, we salute Nike for having the courage to try. We are also in complete awe of the athlete himself. "No limits" is Kipchoge's slogan and he isn't lying. He's won seven of his last eight marathons, including two Olympics. It's just a matter of time before he tries again and breaks one of sport's most intimidating records.

Friday, May 5, 2017



Buckingham Palace dropped a major announcement yesterday. Prince Philip, Queen Elizabeth's 96-year-old husband, is officially retiring from public engagements. What a relief! For sixty years, this royal put his foot in his mouth all around the world. Let's recap some his worst moments.

On China. Philip seems more racist towards some cultures than others. Aside from Africans, the Chinese are most often the butt of his "jokes." At a World Wildlife banquet, he quipped about the diet of his hosts. "If it has four legs or two wings. If it flies or swims...it doesn't matter. The Cantonese will eat it." In 1986, when meeting British students in Wuhan, he warned them: "If you stay here much longer, you'll be slit-eyed too."

On Africa. Everyone's favorite ambassador has traveled to nearly all of the 52 Commonwealth nations. On a stop in Kenya, Philip was confused that ladies had clean, shaved heads. "You are a woman, aren't you?" he asked after a local woman presented him with a gift. Recently, he met with Nigerian president Obasanjo, who wore an Agbada to the occasion. "You look like you're ready for bed." exclaimed the prince.

On Island Nations. The Commonwealth is packed full of island states, who often host Royal visits. During a stop in the Cayman Islands in 1994, he needed clarification on the ethnicity of the lighter-skinned residents. "Aren't you all descended from pirates?" he asked. When meeting Aborigines in Papua New Guinea, Philip asked if the residents "still throw spears at each other."

On Women's Rights. The Prince doesn't just insult foreigners, he has some great positions on issues at home as well. "I don't think a prostitute is more moral than a wife, but they do the same thing." Not very forward thinking, your highness. Philip does believe in chivalry...to a point. "When a man opens a car door for his wife, it's either a new car or a new wife."

On Children. Kids around the U.K. must be rejoicing that Philip won't be visiting their schools anymore. When a 12-year old said he'd like to travel in space someday, he replied; "You're too fat to be an astronaut." After hearing the Edinburgh Children's Band: "You were playing instruments? No, you all have tape recorders under your seats." He also told a group of girls wearing matching burgundy dresses: "You all look like Dracula's daughters!"

However, not all of Philip's comments are offensive. Sometimes, the Prince can be downright funny. When meeting Malala Yousafzai, who was shot by the Taliban for being a female student, he told the teen: "In England, the reason children go to school is because their parents don't want them in the house." The Nobel Prize winner giggled. After a thousand inappropriate comments, he finally got one right! Sigh. We here at the DUNER BLOG can't wait for a new generation of British royalty headed by Wills, Harry, Kate and PIPPA!!!

Saturday, April 29, 2017



Time: Monday Morning, 3:00 AM. Place: New Orleans. Scene: A fleet of black flat-bed trucks arrive at the Battle of Liberty Place. Out came dozens of masked men. Knowing their lives are in grave danger, snipers have been placed on rooftops of nearby buildings to protect them. After receiving the final OK from HQ, they begin their dangerous task: Removing a Confederate obelisk that has withstood 126 years of opposition.

By dawn, the massive marble icon was gone...without a single KKK shooter. Mayor Mitch Landrieu applauded the action. "It sends a clear and unequivocal message on diversity, inclusion and tolerance," he summarized. After the courts and City Council's tremendous resolution earlier this year, it's clearing time for Confederate monuments in the Crescent City. One obelisk down, three statues to go. Next up is the Beauregard Statue at the college. All four monuments date back to the 1800's. They have been accepted by locals as part of their history: good or bad. But suddenly, everything changed in 2017, and they became symbols of hate and had to be instantly removed.

Why this week? Basically, New Orleans is finally feeling the political ripple-effect that began a year ago in South Carolina. That's when nine African-Americans were shot in a horrific racial attack. Voters demanded elected officials do something in response, so they removed the Confederate flag from atop the Statehouse. This triggered a domino-effect across the South. Confederate statues in Atlanta, Memphis...and now New Orleans...have all succumbed to the political fall-out from this one event. So they are all being removed.

Meanwhile, historians across the nation are left scratching their heads. The act of erasing and thus attempting to change the memories of the past is always risky business. Just ask the Senators of Ancient Rome. After killing Julius Caesar, they began dismantling his many monuments and statues, hoping to change public opinion. The process even had a title: Damnatio Memoriae or 'Condemnation of Memory.' It didn't work and Caesar remains relevant two thousand years later. However...this time...it will work. Everyone in New Orleans will forget about the Confederacy. It's as easy as removing a statue!

In actuality, the people of New Orleans have been largely receptive. The obelisk honored the Crescent City White League...so few folks protested. However, the last two monuments to be removed may prove a little more difficult. Confederate general Robert E. Lee is considered a genius of military strategy. Confederate president Jefferson Davis held office for five years. They were both amazing leaders. Sigh. It's just sad to see such an enormous decision made so hastily and without a public vote. Removing statues of Hitler and Stalin is much easier!

Saturday, April 22, 2017



Last Sunday was Easter. All across the world, Christians came together for one of their most important holidays. Pope Francis spoke at the Vatican. President Trump hid eggs in Washington DC.  Filipinos nailed each other to crosses. However, there is one place where celebrations were definitely muted. Sadly, it's the same place where Jesus Christ spent his entire life: The Middle East.

Exactly two hundred years ago, a 17-year-old named Jesus first began preaching about a new faith. After his death, conversion began rapidly. By the year 200 AD, over two million people believed. In the Middle East, Christianity replaced Roman deities and pushed Zoroastrians into the desert. However, things changed dramatically in the 700's, with the coming of the Prophet Mohammed's first jihad. Almost everyone became Islamic. Christian populations plummeted at first, but stabilized after Sunnis became more tolerant. As expected, Christians settled in the more arid regions and had limited rights under the Caliphates.

Despite this, when the new millennium began seventeen years ago, an estimated 20 million Christians still lived in the Middle East. They are not Catholic or Protestant. Rather, they hail from ancient branches of the faith that Americans are not familiar with. The largest is the Coptic Orthodox Church, which commands 8 million followers...10% of Egypt's population. As the oldest branch of Christianity, it dates back to 42 AD, when the Apostle Mark came to Alexandria. ISIS has been aggressive hating the Coptics lately. They killed 58 people in church bombings on Palm Sunday. Hence, there was not much merriment on Easter this year in Egypt.

Also not having much fun on Easter this year are the 1.4 million Christians living in Iraq. The Chaldean sect is unfortunately based in Mosul, an ISIS base city. They fled and for the last four years they have been living in refugee camps, awaiting word if they can return. Although Mosul was liberated from the evil group last month, Shi'ite forces are in control of the city today. Sadly, they are not as welcoming as the Sunnis of Saddam. Likewise, the Assyrian Orthodox was largely protected under Bashar al-Assad, but faced executions under ISIS and rebel groups.

In short, the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 succeeded in a goal not seen much by the outside world: Discrimination against Christians in the Middle East. The ensuing invasion of Iraq by the USA has been horrifyingly difficult for the Chaldeans, and their lives have been further marginalized. The instability in Syria has also been tough on Christians. Finally, the rise of ISIS has resulted in 400 deaths of Christian Coptics in Egypt. The outside world seems oblivious, and just assumes that everyone in the Middle East is Islamic. What would Richard the Lionhearted think?

Friday, April 14, 2017



For the second time this month, the Spanish Navy has crossed into British territorial waters. At question is an enormous patrol boat called the Infanta Cristina.  The vessel has sailed past the centuries-old demarcation, separating Gibraltar from Spain. When asked for a motive for the incursion, Spain's foreign ministry quipped they didn't recognize the waters as belonging to Gibraltar and that their boat was on a routine patrol.

No so fast! British Prime Minister Theresa May was quick to remind Spain of Article 10 in the Treaty of Utrecht. Both nations signed the pact back in 1713, ceding the island and said territorial waters to the United Kingdom. Spain instantly regretted this, and tried to regain control a dozen years later. A six-month siege failed. Fifty years later, when England was busy fighting rebelling American colonists, Spain tried again to siege Gibraltar...and came up short. Two centuries later, the chaos of World War II served as an opportunity to grab the colony. Again they failed.

Readers are wondering: Why is Spain again trying to claim Gibraltar today? What world event is giving them another chance? The answer is Brexit! The logic is simple: By pulling out of the EU, Great Britain is also pulling out of all agreements, including the 300 year-old Treaty of Utrecht. Many in the UK scoff at this, reminding the EU of their constitutional duties to let people chose their sovereignty. In 2002, 98% of Gibraltarians voted to stay in the United Kingdom. Just ask Fabian Picardo, the colony's Chief Minister. "Unnecessary, unjustified and unacceptable," he clamored. "Spain's unusual obsession with Gibraltar must end!"

Just why is Spain so occupied with the dream of taking back Gibraltar? Although tiny (a mere 2.6 square miles), the symbolism of owning "The Rock" is powerful. Just ask Prudential Insurance Company. Their logo features a drawing of the domineeringly large 1,398 foot limestone promontory. First called the Pillars of Hercules, it was renamed Jabal-al-Tariq (Tariq's Mountain) in the year 711. This is when the Moors invaded Europe. This name has stuck and Gibraltar remains one of the world's most recognizable mountains...a Herculean symbol of strength.

The conflict is a simple reminder of a rivalry that has never been forgotten. We've got the world's two largest colonial powers going at it again! Before we get carried away, let's get back to the treaty. At the time, Spain chose to retain Minorca, Majorca and Ibiza and ceded away Gibraltar. That was a smart move! Last year, over three million Brits flew there and spent wads of money. You're winning, Spain! It's time to back off. Just ask Argentina what will happen if you try to do anything militarily to a British colony!

Saturday, April 8, 2017



To see what defines a decade in American culture, it's best to turn to Pop Music. For example, the top selling musician in the 1950's was Elvis Presley. Meanwhile, the 1960's had the Beatles, while the 1970's had the BeeGees. All speak volumes about what average Americans valued in that period. Think about their hair, their message, rebellious attitude, colorful polyester pants, etc... You get the picture. So we here at the DUNER BLOG thought it would be interesting to see which pop musicians are tops in the new millennium. Using a simple formula, here are our findings:

#5. LADY GAGA. Album sales: 25,000,000, #1 Hits: 3. Born Stefani Germanotta in NYC's Upper West Side, this Italian spitfire attended numerous art academies as a teen. Then, Stefani spent five grueling years, releasing dozens of demos and trying a dozens of crazy costumes in hopes of making it big. Fortune smiled on her when she hooked up with producer Rob Fusari. He claims to have given her stage name after the Queen song Radio Ga Ga. In 2008, Just Dance was released, ushering in five solid years of hits. Although her third and fourth albums flopped, this year's Super Bowl Halftime Show reminded everyone of the Power of GaGa.

#4. JUSTIN BIEBER. Album sales: 18,000,000. #1 Hits: 4. While everyone loves to pick on the Bieber, please remember: Every generation has an equivalent teen idol. It's one of the music industries' surest bets: Selling music to teen girls. That's why *NSYNC and Sean Cassidy exist. And while Justin has had lots of difficulty adjusting to fame in his personal life, his celebrity continues to grow. We expect him to change from music to entertainment soon. Justin will soon be the go-to host for any music show and will soon become the new Ryan Seacrest.

#3. KATY PERRY.  Album sales: 16,000,000. #1 Hits: 9. This glam girl from Santa Barbara released her first album with her real name: Katy Hudson. This confused people who thought she was the actress of the same name. So she re-branded herself as Katy Perry. Her silly-lesbian song "I Kissed A Girl" hit #1 and Katy signed with Capitol Records. For her second album, she teamed with Swedish songwriter Max Martin. 'Teenage Dream' racked up five more #1 hits, tying her with Michael Jackson as the only person to accomplish this feat. Unfortunately, her music future looks dim. Her current single has yet to crack the Top Ten. Currently, she seems more interested in politics than music and could soon run for office.

#2. TAYLOR SWIFT. Album sales: 32,000,000. #1 Hits: 4. Born and raised in Western Pennsylvania, Taylor moved to Nashville as a teen. At age 14, she became to youngest person to ever sign a contract with Sony Music. It was a smart move. Her self-titled debut quickly moved from the Country charts to the Pop Music charts. Eager to show her musical talents, Taylor wrote every song on her second album, Fearless. However, on her third and fourth albums, she too went to Sweden to employ the talents of Max Martin and had four #1 hits. With a rabid fan base, look for Taylor to continue to dominate the industry.

#1. RIHANNA. Album sales: 35,000,0000. #1 Hits: 13. Far and away, the most bankable Pop Star of the new millennium in Robyn 'Rihanna' Fenty. While it took years for GaGa and Katy Perry to break into superstardom, things went pretty quickly for Rihanna. Like many people in Barbados, she worked in the tourism industry. She and two friends sung karaoke songs in a beachside club. One night, famed producer Evan Rogers just happened to be there on vacation. He told Rihanna to lose her two classmates and call Jay-Z in the morning. The rest is music history. She has managed to find the perfect song and manages to stay relevant every year. Congratulations!

Friday, March 31, 2017



Say it ain't so, Joe! Sorry: The vote is in and the Oakland Raiders are moving to Las Vegas. It was made official on Monday at the annual N.F.L. owners meetings. Held on the last week in March, thirty-two millionaires and billionaires converge at the Biltmore Hotel in Phoenix. Behind closed doors, they wheel and deal with football fan's hearts like pieces on a chess board. Our mailbox is jammed packed...so let's get started.

Why do the Raiders owners want to move to Las Vegas? Leslie, Des Moines. Normally, teams move to larger cities to increase their fan base. Clark County Nevada is the 29th largest metro area in the USA with two million residents. The Bay Area is the 11th largest. Nope, the reason why Mark Davis is moving is he wants a new stadium. Ever since Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones built the behemoth, luxurious indoor super-stadium, all the other owners have been jealous. Other cities like Phoenix, Pittsburgh and Seattle followed the trend and have state-of-art football arenas. However, the publicly-owned Oakland Coliseum is one of the oldest in the league. And Mark Davis is tired of the other owners laughing at him about it!

Is the stadium in Oakland really that bad? Tracy, New York. Naturally, the answer depends on who you ask. According to a recent poll in USA Today, the Oakland Coliseum did not fare well. It placed 30th of the 31 stadiums nationwide. Ouch! The biggest complaint involved the multi-use field which is also used for baseball. This means the first 4 games are played with dirt patches. However, if you ask the fans who actually buy the tickets, they will reply with indifference. See, these are passionate fans who come to watch the game on the field. Frankly, they don't notice much about anything else and certainly don't care about the national rankings of the food vendors.

Who cast the lone vote against the move? Ethan, El Cerrito. Perhaps the most surprising aspect of this story is the near-unanimity of the final vote. A whopping 31 of the 32 owners approved the move. NOTE: A two-thirds vote is required for this measure. That one vote against relocation was from Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross. It appears he is the only participant who cares at all about fans. "I may own the Dolphins, but the team belongs to the people of Miami." he explained. Raider fans are known for their fervor. It seems 99% of the fans at a home games don Raiders gear. ESPN Jersey Rankings has them at #2 in sales amongst all teams.

When will the move occur? Tom, San Diego. Here's the tricky part: The new, domed super-stadium in Vegas won't be completed until the year 2019. Normally, when a pro team relocates, they play a season or two in a smaller venue until construction ends. For example, the Los Angeles Rams are playing in the ancient Coliseum while the most expensive stadium EVER is being built nearby. However, there is no stadium in tiny Vegas large enough to support a pro football team. So next two seasons will still be played in Oakland. This will create a lot of tension in the stands for anyone dumb enough to wear any Las Vegas merchandise to a home game.

At the end of the day, what message are the owners sending? Stephen A, Los Angeles. An editorial in the New York Times stated owners are "going where the money is." See, the 32 NFL teams have a revenue-sharing system, where profits are equally divided amongst teams. Last season, Oakland produced one the smallest contributions. The excitement of a team in Sin City will be a huge financial gain for all of the owners, even the one who voted for the fans. Let's face the truth. The owners stopped caring about fans decades ago. They are simply a commodity that can be found...and mined of their cash...anywhere.