Weekly insights into our crazy world.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

OCT 21 'WHISKEY WAR' BETWEEN CANADA & DENMARK


OCT 21  HILARIOUS DISPUTE BETWEEN CANADA & DENMARK

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.

How do both nation claim Hans Island as their own? Simply put, it's a case of overlapping treaties. The original was implemented by the League of Nations in 1920. It ceded the island to Denmark. After World War II, a new territorial agreement came into effect. It defined islands within 12 mile coastal zone to be sovereign territory. This placed the island in Canadian territory. However, no one cared about the island until 1984, when a Danish minister visited. Citing the League of Nations, he left behind: a sign claiming Hans Island, a Danish flag, and a bottle of schnapps.

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!

Sadly, this and other lighthearted land disputes are quickly becoming a thing of the past. These days, our earth is getting smaller and smaller. Even the tiniest of Arctic islands might have petroleum deposits. Everyone knows: Oil changes everything. While legislation failed in the Canadian parliament in 2004 to resolve the issue, and it's likely to come up again soon. But for the time being, let's just enjoy a truly silly moment in World History. Cheers!

Friday, October 13, 2017

OCT 13 ISIS IS A NATION IN NAME ONLY


OCT 13  ISIS IS A NATION IN NAME ONLY

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.

Perhaps the lack of coverage in the US press is due to the lack of participation of the US Army in the offensive. American air strikes with the Russians have kept the skies clear, but the vast majority of the dirty work has been performed on the ground with conventional troops. Here, the Kurdish, Iraqi Security troops and the Syrian Democratic Forces risk deadly odds by performing house-to-house searches. Casualties have been high and one has to admire their fortitude in battle.

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.

Is ISIS gone forever? Of course not. Their leaders are currently busy digging bunkers, preparing for a future jihad. But what is dead is the ISIS dream. Gone are the visions of creating a new caliphate, resurrecting the borders of Islam's greatest extent. The year was 741 and the armies of Islam controlled half of Europe and vast portions of Africa and Asia. Nope, all that's left is a couple crazies in caves. So, America: Let's take a minute to celebrate this remarkable achievement...and then we can go back to those disrespectful NFL stars!




Thursday, October 5, 2017

OCT 5 MEET PAKISTAN GIRL - A NEW SUPERHERO


OCT 5 MEET PAKISTAN GIRL - A NEW SUPERHERO

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.

Meet Pakistan Girl. Just like every other superhero, she has an amazing backstory to explain her secrets. Sarah...her alter-ego...was a normal girl in a small town with a pet cat. Then, one day...BAM! An explosion destroys everything. Sarah awakens months later amidst the rubble, only to discover she has super-human powers! Her costume is shades of green (the national color of Pakistan.) And, of course, the crescent moon symbol is across her chest.

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."

So far, reaction to the comic book has been quite positive. The hope is that a comic book will be something girls struggling with literacy can actually comprehend. Sadly, there are a lot of girls in Pakistan who don't go to school...around 11 million! Don't forget: Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai raised awareness to this problem. But it will take more than medals and superheroes to get Pakistan to spend money on education. Sad.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

SEPT 30 MEXICO CITY'S LATIN AMERICAN TOWER SURVIVES ANOTHER QUAKE


SEPT 30 MEXICO CITY'S LATIN AMERICAN TOWER SURVIVES ANOTHER QUAKE

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.

First, some background an why Mexico City is so vulnerable to earthquake damage. Five hundred years ago, 80% of the current metropolis was underwater. Lake Texcoco was big, but shallow. To make room for the Hemisphere's largest city, hundreds of square miles of the lake was drained and built upon. The problem is landfill takes centuries to permanently settle. This loose ground weebles and wobbles during a strong quake, toppling anything built on top.

For this reason, Mexico City officials banned the construction of any skyscrapers in the early 1900's. However during the post-war 'Mexican Miracle,' the Suguros Insurance Company managed to successfully lobby officials to lift the ban. Why? They believed in architect Augusto Alvarez and his revolutionary anti-earthquake plan. First, he would conduct soil tests by simulating a quake. Next, the 26,000 tons of concrete in the tower would be supported by 361 pylons, sunk deep into the ground. When the 44-storey tower opened in 1956, it was the tallest in Latin America...hence the name.

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.

So it came as no surprise that the venerable structure was unscathed by the recent seismic activity as well. It's also no surprise that architects in other earthquake-prone cities began to copy Alvarez...the Amazing Mexican...and his innovative designs. For decades, buildings in Tokyo, Seoul and San Francisco emulated his concept of sinking pylons deep into the earth. They ceased using the simple, flat foundations of traditional buildings. So...if you ever go to Mexico City, be sure to shell out 100 pesos to visit the observation deck. The views at sunset are particularly breathtaking.



Friday, September 22, 2017

SEPT 22 TOP FIVE WORST FAST FOOD MASCOTS


SEPT 22 TOP FIVE WORST FAST FOOD MASCOTS

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:

#5 Grimace. In 1971, McDonald's created McDonaldland, a fantasy world inhabited by cartoon versions of menu items. While everyone loved the Hamburgular, the FryGuys and Mayor McCheese, others were downright scary. Grimace is a chubby purple monster intent on stealing your milkshake. He cannot speak; he only utters odd chortle noises. Weird. Although wildly popular at first, all the characters in McDonaldland were unceremoniously dumped in 2003, with only Ronald surviving.

#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
sensation. Folks wore "Yo Quiero Taco Bell" T-Shirts and Gidget became a minor celeb. Although many Latinos found the dog hilarious, others did not. In 2000, Taco Bell gave into media pressure and fired Gidget.

#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
voices. Sometimes, they'd dress up in funny hats. For three years, the wise-cracking furry spokes-rats informed us of upcoming promotions and specials. After a sluggish reception, they were replaced by the much safer 'MMMM..Tasty!' campaign.

#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
Domino's delivery drivers, the campaign was scrapped in 1997.

#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

SEPT 14 SQUIRRELS ARE SMARTER THAN YOU THINK


SEPT 14  SQUIRRELS ARE SMARTER THAN YOU THINK

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!

In these forests of Berkeley, you'll find an enormous squirrel population. They are a constant presence who appear out of nowhere the second they hear the magic sound of a bag of Doritos being ripped open. This event caught the attention of Mikel Delgado, a UC Post-doc eating lunch in the Faculty Glade one day. She became curious: What were the squirrels doing with their horde of Corn-Nuts and Cheetos? Inquiring minds cannot be silenced. Delgado went on to head a team of researchers, determined to answer this question.

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.

"Squirrels put away their groceries the same way you do." explained Dr. Jacobs, head of the lab. "Fruit on one shelf, veggies on another. Then, when you are looking for an onion, you only have to look in one place." The bottom line is that squirrels are much smarter than previously thought. They have cognitive abilities and employ complex problem solving techniques. This might explain the species' amazing success. They live on five continents and endure some of the harshest environments on earth. You see these critters on the beach, in the desert and on mountaintops.

For the time being, the 45 squirrels have become minor celebrities. They've been interviewed by London's Daily Mail. Their photo was on page two of the South China Morning Post. Naturally, they have their own Facebook page and Twitter accounts. All of which has prompted the university to issue an official statement regarding Human/Squirrel Etiquette. (This is Berkeley after all). After stern warnings of the harmfulness of Fritos, it also reminds students not to take squirrels with them on Spring Break.

Friday, September 8, 2017

SEPT 8 WHO IS NORTH KOREA'S PINK LADY?


SEPT 8 WHO IS NORTH KOREA'S PINK LADY?

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.


Just who is the Pink Lady? Ri Chun Hee was born in 1943 in a poor family in Pyongyang. At age twenty-five, she graduated from college with a communications degree. After getting married and starting a family, she began working for KCTV in 1971. Officials approved of her warm style and caring attitude and the "people's broadcaster" appeared nightly across the nation. She became a constant presence on the network. In 1994, tears ran down her face, yet she still managed to announce to the audience that their 'Great leader, Kim Il Sung has died.' On this day, she left the bright pink dress at home and wore a solemn black gown instead.

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.

Most importantly, the Pink Lady should serve as a reminder about the dangers of Fascism...the worst form of government of all. To use education, our most valuable tool, to brainwash citizens is flat out wrong. People who are good at it, like Ri Chun Hee are "more valuable than the cannons" (Quote is from Chinese State Media). Hopefully a peaceful resolution will occur before a nuclear bomb annihilates her, along with the 25 million other North Koreans. Just because they're brainwashed doesn't mean they should have to die!

Saturday, September 2, 2017

SEPT 1 THE MOST LIVABLE CITIES IN THE WORLD


SEPT 1  THE MOST LIVABLE CITIES IN THE WORLD

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.

#2. Vienna, Austria. The oldest city in the top ten, Vienna dates back to Roman times. Since then, it has seen many a rise and fall. It withstood a nasty siege by the Turks in 1529 and saw a third of its population wiped out by the plague in 1679. As the capital of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, culture flourished. Vienna became the classical music capital of the world, as numerous opera houses and auditoriums opened. Most survived two World Wars and a brief Soviet occupation and are thriving again. Hence, the near perfect score on culture. NOTE: In German, Vienna is Wien...home of the Wiener-schnitzel.

#3. Vancouver, Canada. Seven of the top ten cities on the Economist Index are located in Australia and Canada. At the third spot is Canada's third largest city, Vancouver. While other North American cities have embraced urban sprawl, Vancouver did just the opposite. They drew urban limit lines and stuck to them. Instead of endless suburbs, they built multi-use apartment high-rises with businesses on street level. The result is a major metropolis completely surrounded by nature.

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

AUG 25 HUNDRED YEAR-OLD FRUITCAKE IS ALMOST EDIBLE


AUG 25 HUNDRED YEAR-OLD FRUITCAKE IS ALMOST EDIBLE  

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.

So this week, comedians nationwide are jumping at the chance to ridicule this story: A 106 year-old fruitcake has been found in the Antarctic. And here's the part that everyone expected: According to the scientists examining the artifact, it's 'almost edible." Manager Lizzie Meek noted "a very slight rancid butter smell" but still tried a bite. How did it survive? First, it was wrapped in sturdy paper and stored in a plated alloy tin. Secondly, it was stored in the world's largest icebox, so it's been frozen the entire time. Even the name of the bakery is legible. It was baked at British biscuit company in London called Huntley & Palmers.

You're wondering: How did the fruitcake end up at the South Pole? It was part of the provisions trekked in for the Robert Scott Antarctic Expedition in 1912. They must have been saving it to celebrate their return...which sadly never occurred. (The entire mission died from frostbite upon their return from the Pole). Back to last week: The New Zealand-based Antarctic Heritage Trust has been busy on Cape Adare for month, examining a dozen forgotten human settlements.  One such place is an abandoned staging hut used not only by Scott's party but Norweigan voyages as well. Here, they found the now famous tin box.

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!

For the time being, the 106-year old Huntley & Palmers fruitcake is being examined by the team. Despite its fame, the cake is being treated just the same as the other 1,500 artifacts recovered on Cape Adare. So it may take months for any new information. (NOTE: They also found edible jam, but since there are no running gags about jam, no one cares!) Anyhow, we here at the DUNER BLOG just can't help think that Johnny Carson is looking down from heaven. He's smiling, because a new generation is cracking jokes about fruitcakes!


Thursday, August 17, 2017

AUG 17 REMEBRING THE 1504 LUNAR ECLIPSE


AUG 17  REMEMBERING THE 1504 LUNAR ECLIPSE

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.

While other news outlets are covering the same drab stories about the solar eclipse, we here at the DUNER BLOG think differently. For us, this presents an opportunity to remember the lunar eclipse of 1504...it's quite a story! Five hundred years ago, astronomy was in its infancy. The going was tough as the top minds in the field were being persecuted by the Catholic church. Nonetheless, many still used their studies. Sailors like Christopher Columbus carried almanacs with them on their voyages. They trusted their lives to the science of the stars.

On his fourth voyage to the New World, Columbus packed the most recent almanac available. It was published by Abraham Zacuto and had astronomical charts for the years 1475 - 1506. At first, the Genoan sailor only used it for navigation. However, things suddenly changed. Six months into the voyage, ship-worms had completely infested his boats. The pests ate the wood and the vessels slowly began to sink. Two ships were abandoned in Honduras. More leaks forced the expedition to stop in Jamaica until the hulls could be properly prepared.

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.

Since then, this phenomenal event has been recreated numerous times in fiction. Mark Twain's hero in A Connecticut Yankee In King Arthur's Court uses the technique to impress the court. It also figures into the plot of King Solomon Mines. Even cartoon characters like Tin-tin and Bugs Bunny use the scheme to save themselves. Okay, readers! It's your turn. On Monday morning when you sit around looking (non-directly) at the Solar Eclipse, remember to tell this anecdote. You'll be the life of the party...guaranteed!


Saturday, August 12, 2017

AUG 12 MEXICO IS SIXTH IN WORLD AUTOMOBILE PRODUCTION


AUG 12 MEXICO IS SIXTH IN WORLD AUTOMOBILE PRODUCTION

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.

Why the sudden gold rush? It's a combination of skilled labor costs and NAFTA. With a low cost of living and an absence of labor unions, Mexican workers earn $8/hour, including benefits. That same worker will cost you $58/hour in Detroit or $42/hour in Tokyo. Next, it is easy to transport completed cars to the auto-obsessed American market. Trains from Central Mexico to Texas are busy these days. At the border, they are nearly exempt from all tariffs, since the cars were made in Mexico, not Japan or Germany.

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.

Back to Augascalientes. People like Carlos are continuing to court the international auto market and enticing them to invest in Mexico. For example, Toyota is opening a plant in Baja California next year. This will thrust Mexico to #6 on the list of car-producing nations, passing Brazil. With South Korean companies also investing, it seems only a matter of time before Mexico captures the #5 spot. But don't look for this story in any American news source. US media is obsessed with only showing gory scenes from the Drug War...continually throwing shade on their industrious friends to the South!


Wednesday, July 12, 2017

JULY 13 'DESPACITO' IS THE SONG OF THE SUMMER


JULY 13 'DESPACITO' IS THE SONG OF THE SUMMER

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.

Does Bieber really sing in Spanish? ¡Claro que si! Actually, the original version of Despacito doesn't have the Canadian singer. But when they inserted Bieber in the remix, the song received the airplay it deserves. Originally, the plan was just to have Justin sing only in the opening and closing. Then...during the recoding session...he began to hum Fonsi's lines in Spanish. It sounded muy bueno and was inserted in the middle of the track. However, singing in Spanish is clearly a ONE-AND-DONE for the Biebs. He's been booed at concerts for inserting blah-blah instead of the real words. Fonsi has asked for fans to "give him a pass" on singing in a language he doesn't speak.

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.

What is the song about? Simply put, Despacito is about getting it on! Here, the song is just like every other pop song, in any language. Despacito translates as 'slowly.' As in: "I want to breathe on your neck, slowly. I want to undress you with kisses, slowly." Okay, so it doesn't have deep, introspective lyrics. But this is pop music, after all. So, go ahead, ask Alexa to play it for you and try NOT to dance...slowly.


Saturday, July 8, 2017

JULY 8 WILDLIFE RESETTLEMENT IN MOZAMBIQUE IS LARGEST EVER


JULY 8 WILDLIFE RE-SETTLEMENT IN MOZAMBIQUE IS THE LARGEST EVER

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.

However, not everyone thinks the ginormous re-settlement program is a good idea. Just ask Humane Society International specialist Masha Kalinina. While the Mozambique Civil War has ended, she is not convinced the current regime is strong enough to control illegal poaching. Like many African nations, the government controls the capital city but has little presence in remote areas, like Zinave National Park. They are "transporting animals so that they may die at the hands of either trophy hunters or poachers. Is this really conservation?" Kalinina wonders.

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.

The irony here is huge. The bottom line is that hunters are the only people on earth who actually care enough about the animals of Africa to spend money to save them. Meanwhile, the rest of the people on earth will continue to sit by and do nothing while their beloved species become extinct. Centuries from now, historians will be perplexed by the people of 2017. On one hand, African animals are in zoos, featured in countless movies and cartoons (The Lion King) and everyday sayings (Elephant in the room). Our children hug stuffed cotton toy versions and sing songs about them. Yet humans willingly let yahoo poachers (a mere .000001% of their population) kill all the real ones living in the wild. Weird, huh?


Friday, June 30, 2017

JUNE 30 HOW TO SURVIVE A SHARK ATTACK


JUNE 30 HOW TO SURVIVE A SHARK ATTACK

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.

FIGHT BACK. Surfers are often targeted by sharks. Just ask Mick Fanning. At an event two years ago, TV cameras captured him bonking a Great White on the snout. He then paddled to safety. Countless other people have survived this way. Some claw at the eyes and the gills. Although portrayed as mean and heartless in the movies, some sharks are cry-babies and will swim away. NOTE: Don't 'wind up' before hitting, as this doesn't provide any extra force underwater.

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.

Okay. Now that your terrified to ever set foot in the ocean again, let's put this in perspective. Although sharks kill humans often in the movies (Once every five minutes in the Sharknado series), it rarely happens in real life. In fact, the chances are 300 million to one you'll die from a shark attack. However, if you happen to drive your car today (the riskiest activity of all) there is a 8,000 to one chance you'll die. Feel better?