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.
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!
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.
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..
|Photos courtesy of TMZ|
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.
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.
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.
#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 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 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.
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.
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.
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 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 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!"
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!"
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.
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!
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.