Bye, bye Bulletin…but you can continue following my forthright opinions right here

OVER & OUT: The end of the story for Hugh Ash Sunday Comment columns in the Majorca Daily Bulletin

OVER & OUT: The end of the story for the Hugh Ash Sunday Comment columns in the Majorca Daily Bulletin

AFTER a two-year stint as a columnist with the Majorca Daily Bulletin I’ve decided to sever my connection with the paper.

But can I sincerely thank all those regular readers of my Sunday Comment column, who have taken the trouble to contact me, expressing their regret over my departure and the loss of what one generously noted was ‘a consistently entertaining, high-quality and thought-provoking piece of true journalism.

It’s always good to be appreciated.

However, the pieces which appeared in the Bulletin have always been replicated on this blog and I’ll continue to post them – always without fear or favour – so they also appear on Facebook, Linkedin and other internet platforms.

For the time being I’m taking a well-deserved break, but I’ll be back in March.

So watch this space…


Why a Jewish exodus from Europe is the beginning of the end of our civilisation

ADMIT it. Like me, you’re prejudiced. In my case I call it ‘detestophobia’ – a visceral loathing of those who hate others, simply based on their creed, colour or religion.

So what’s yours? People of Afro origin, wily Oriental gentlemen – from whom we supposedly derived the odious acronym WOG – or that enduring favourite, the Jews?

All discrimination is irrational, but some hatreds are beyond absurd, like a woman I once met with a prejudice against redheads, since she believed it a trademark of Celtic ancestry and she loathed the Irish.

At the Simon Wiesenthal Centre’s Museum of Tolerance, in Los Angeles, it’s assumed everyone harbours bigotry by degrees; it’s just a matter of pricking consciences to out it.

After a brief welcome – and before inviting visitors to enter through one of two doors – the guide says, ‘Search your hearts and honestly pick whichever best identifies you.’

Above one door is a sign marked: ‘Prejudiced’; above the other is one beckoning the ‘Unprejudiced’.

After an uneasy pause for reflection, visitors unanimously elect the door marked ‘Prejudiced’. It’s as well they do, because the portal marked ‘Unprejudiced’ is locked.

Named in honour of the legendary Nazi hunter, the centre’s mission is to generate change through education by not only confronting the scourge of anti-Semitism – the world’s oldest hatred – but all forms of prejudice, while promoting human rights and dignity for all.

VISION OF EVIL: 'If we had no Jews we'd have to invent them', said Hitler

VISION OF EVIL: ‘If Jews didn’t exist, we’d have to invent them’, said Hitler

It’s a noble, praiseworthy aim. But 70 years after the liberation of Auschwitz, the death camp where millions of Jews perished – alongside homosexuals, opponents of the Nazis, the mentally and physically disabled, and others branded as subhuman ‘untermenschen’ – the Wiesenthal Centre’s challenge for mankind to confront horrors its racism unleashed is being ignored, forgotten or defied.

The exhortation ‘Never again’ is being replaced by ‘Whenever again’, nowhere more so than in Europe, cradle of the Enlightenment yet crucible of persecution and intolerance.

And, once again, Jews are at the forefront of loathing, almost to the extent that anti-Semitism is trendy, whether it emanates from the malevolent Left or the putrid far-Right.

For two millennia Jews bobbed like corks on the tide of societies wherever they chanced to settle, their existence an ongoing litmus test of how civilised a civilisation purported to be.

Few, if any, European nations can take historical pride in how they treated their Jewish citizens, irrespective of the huge contributions Jews made to all aspects of the fabric of their societies – from culture, commerce and science to political philosophy, philanthropy and inter-faith cohesion.

Yet, they have never ceased to be less than handy scapegoats to divert the masses attention away from the real causes of their misery – greedy, ruthless, oppressive overlords.

As Hitler noted, ‘If the Jews didn’t exist, we’d have to invent them.’

Inexplicably, in defiance of the lessons of history, anti-Semitism never entirely disappears, but morphs into contemporary formats.

Today the existence of Israel is a neat overlay on the vile, old tapestry of Jew hatred, since it can be sanitised as ‘anti-Zionism’ and the Jewish people’s ancient right to a state can be twisted into a vindictive denial that an historical wrong should be righted.

This is a particular hobbyhorse of the Left, who, rather than praise the only flourishing democracy in the cauldron of Middle East hate, revile it for having the temerity to succeed.

Instead, squaring this circle of lunacy, holier-than-thou, pseudo-liberals regard as a cause célèbre murderous terrorists, who slaughter political opponents, persecute Christians, execute homosexuals and denigrate women in the name of a 7th Century credo.

Such hypocrisy was repellently evident in BBC reporter Tim Willcox’s interview with the daughter of Holocaust survivors during the memorial march in Paris two weeks ago, commemorating the victims of the Charlie Hebdo massacre and the slaying by an Islamo-fanatic of four Jews in a kosher supermarket.

Standing with her Muslim friend, the woman reflected on how afraid French Jews felt, noting, ‘The situation is going back to the days of the 1930s in Europe.’

Willcox replied crassly, ‘Many critics of Israel’s policy would suggest that the Palestinians suffer hugely at Jewish hands as well.’

BIASED BROADCASTER: The BBC's Tim Willcox incensed viewers with his crass comments during the Charlie Hebdo commemorations in Paris

WILLCOX COCKS UP: The BBC’s Tim Willcox incensed viewers over his crass comments to a Jewish woman during the Charlie Hebdo commemorations

Conflating the Israel-Arab conflict with the murders of French Jews in France was just the sort of inane slur that features all too often in radical Left media, of which BBC News is a leading light.

And, after a wave of condemnation, Willcox’s lame, Tweeted apology – ‘Really sorry for any offence caused by a poorly phrased question…it was entirely unintentional’ – cut little ice with incensed viewers, since he is no stranger to similar controversy.

Many well remember, last November, a BBC News 24 debate when political guru Jo Phillips suggested to him that UK Labour leader, Ed Miliband, was losing the support of that well-worn racist canard, the so-called ‘Jewish lobby’.

Far from condemning her inflammatory remark, Willcox added tinder to the flames, saying, ‘And a lot of these prominent Jewish faces will be very much against the mansion tax (one of Labour’s promises if it wins the May 7 UK General Election).’

If similar sentiments had been aired against Muslims, I’d imagine Willcox would probably be job-seeking.

At best, though, the hideous events of Paris awakened a consciousness that Jews are still a barometer of how civilised is an entity that professes itself a civilisation.

Manuel Valls, the Prime Minister of France – which has a long and dishonourable record for its treatment of Jews – insisted the country needs to protect its 500,000-strong Jewish community, ‘lest France itself be destroyed.’

But, with synagogues, Jewish schools and institutions now guarded 24/7 by the military, it is a damning indictment of a nation whose motto is ‘Liberty, equality and fraternity.’ Small wonder Jews are leaving France in droves.

ANTI ANTI-SEMITISM: Theresa May, the UK interior minister, joins the outrage against the rise of Jew hatred across Europe

ANTI ANTI-SEMITISM: Theresa May, the UK interior minister, joins the outrage against the rise of Jew hatred across Europe

Uber-liberal Sweden – where Jews fear displaying any outward sign of their faith, like a skullcap or Star of David – is little better, as are other European nations with open-door immigration policies.

In Britain, anti-Semitic attacks trebled in 2014, prompting Interior Minister, Theresa May to lament, ‘I never thought I would see the day when members of the Jewish community would say they were fearful of remaining here.’

But, arguably the most telling comment came from Frans Timmermans, vice president of the European Commission, who recalled that mistreatment of Jews had always been a harbinger of ‘trouble ahead for European societies.’

What is lost in the hand-wringing is, one way or another, the Jews are not alone as a minority, because, one way or another, we all are members of one – even if it boils down to having ginger hair.

Which is why I recall the words of anti-Nazi German theologian and concentration camp internee, Pastor Martin Niemöller, who noted, ‘First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out, because I was not a socialist. Then they came for the trade unionists and I did not speak out, because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out, because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me – and there was no one left to speak for me.’

A ‘Grexit’ could finally sink the euro – so beware of Greeks bearing threats

THIS is an election year like no other, few can dodge its impact and, whoever wins, most voters will probably feel they’ve lost out.

Because, like a nasty rash, polling fever is erupting almost everywhere and what’s at stake isn’t so much who governs where next, but whether the world plunges into the financial abyss again.

In Britain the only certainty about what will happen in the general election on May 7 is uncertainty, though I have a sneaking suspicion Squire Cameron won’t be handing over the keys to 10 Downing Street.

Why? Because there’ll be what veteran American pollsters wryly recall as the ‘Richard Nixon Gambit’, an event from the annals of politicking gimmickry and the 1960 White House race, squeakily shaded by John F. Kennedy.

Too close to call, the Democrats stooped to a now legendary low in black propaganda by releasing an image of Nixon looking sweaty and shifty behind his grizzled five o’clock shadow, alongside the headline: ‘Would you buy a used car from this man?’

NIXON NIXED: The ad showing a shady Richard Nixon that tipped the 1960 US election JFK's way

NIXON NIXED: The ad showing a shady-looking Richard Nixon that tipped the 1960 US election JFK’s way

The stunt resonated sufficiently for JFK to win literally by a whisker – 49.7% to 49.6% – after voters carried the scary vision of the then Republican Vice President into the polling booths.

Nine years later, and remembering to shave at least twice a day, Tricky Dicky won the presidency – perhaps proving you can’t keep a good crook down – only to resign in 1974 in the murk of the Watergate Scandal.

So, it would surprise me not one iota to see a montage of Ed Miliband snaps, showing the Labour leader at his geekiest worst, cropping up like Comparethemeerket telly ads.

The tacit caption would be: ‘Would you believe this nerd could lead the nation?’

Though Britain’s hustings might be enthralling to dedicated followers of UK politics, they are a parish-pump sideshow to elections globally – and I don’t mean in Burkina Faso, where President Blaise Compaoré is hotly tipped to get the heave-ho in November.

Nor am I referring to Israel’s March vote, which will predictably end in a cobbled-together Left or Right-wing coalition government, neither of which will bow to Palestinian blackmail and have imposed on them a factionalised, corruption-riddled Arab statelet that adamantly refuses to recognise its neighbour’s right to exist.

And forget the polls in Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Egypt, which sully the name of democracy. Ditto Estonia, Finland and Poland, where properly constituted elections should hardly cause a ripple on the Richter scale of political earthquakes.

No, the fun – if that’s not too sardonic a description – is in the European Union’s Club Med nations, beginning next Sunday in Greece, the so-called ‘sick man of Europe’ (well, considerably more bilious compared to the ailing rest).

CAN’T PAY, WON’T PAY: Alex Tsipras (left), head of Greece’s Syriza bloc, demands debt relief to relieve his nation’s plight…or else

Because if a bunch of rebel populists called Syriza, who make the Chinese Communist politbureau look like Young Conservatives, the flaking euro is in for a further buffeting, one which – this time – could actually prelude the first exit of a member state from the Eurozone.

A bloc of far-Left hardliners led by neo-Marxist Che Guevara fan, Alexis Tsipras, the thrust of Syriza’s manifesto is simple: ‘Stop austerity – or we’ll stop paying our debts’, beginning with the instalment of €6.7-billion due to the European Central Bank (ECB) in July.

Unless you’re an International Monetary Fund (IMF) bean-counter, it’s a difficult to gauge just how much Greece owes creditors and what interest it’s cranking up. But terms like ‘colossal’ and ‘humungous’ are understatements and, as one economist noted, ‘At the current rate of pay-down, it’ll 130 years before they return to where they were in 2008.’

How a nation that produced arithmetical geniuses such as Pythagoras, Archimedes and Euclid got itself into such a mega-mess – or managed to flannel its way into the Eurozone in the first place – is no longer the issue.

With unemployment rocketing, the prospect of triple-dip deflation and Greece’s economy screwed to the floor by the ‘Troika’ – that’s the IMF, ECB and European Union, otherwise known as Greater Deutschland – Tsipras is demanding a 50% write-off its debts, just as the international community let Germany get away with in 1953.

For the record, deflation is a mixed blessing. In the UK, where inflation has fallen to 0.5%, courtesy of falling oil, food and commodity prices, consumer spending power is boosted. In contrast, what it means for the Eurozone is rising joblessness, stagnant wages, weak consumption and an inexorable slide into deflation.

POKER FACE: Germany's Merkel fears that a 'Grexit' would be contagious and infect other Club Med states

POKER FACE: But Germany’s Merkel fears that a ‘Grexit’ would be contagious and infect other Club Med states

Meanwhile, despite lame messages from Chancellor Angela Merkel about wanting to keep Greece in the club – which chimes with what Syriza claims it wants – behind the scenes an ultra-high-stakes game of diplomatic poker is being played, with many German politicians refusing to blink first.

‘We are past the days when we still have to rescue Greece,’ insists Michael Fuchs, parliamentary leader of Merkel’s Christian Democrats. “The situation has completely changed from three years ago. Greece is no longer systemically relevant for the euro.’

In fact, it was recently revealed that in 2011 Germany offered Greece a ‘friendly’ return to the drachma, the so-called ‘Grexit’ option. However, Merkel had an attack of the jitters when it became clear Spain and Italy would be mired by contagion from it.

Notwithstanding great strides the Spanish and, to a lesser extent, the Italians have made in putting their houses into better financial shape, with both nations also facing elections in 2015, many voters are looking to see what happens in Athens before they decided which way to jump.

The storm clouds are certainly gathering in Spain, where the Left-wing upstarts of Podemos (‘We Can’), who are allies of Syriza, are currently leading the polls on an anti-corruption, anti-austerity ticket.

Which is why Merkel fears a domino effect across the Club Med if Greece defaults on its IOUs, starts afresh with a new drachma and its economy shows signs of revival.

Because, however tentatively it finds its newly-liberated feet, the Greeks will offer an example to others stretched on the German-imposed financial rack to do likewise.

And the lure of a born-again peseta or lira – plus the freedom of nations to structure their own destiny – might be too strong to resist.

So watch this space…2015 could be the year that reshapes the future of the Eurozone.


Will our leaders now wake up to the war against the jihadi enemy within?

THE emotions coursing through me writing this in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo atrocity and the three-day terrorisation of Paris are a meld of seething anger, deep sadness and utter revulsion.

Not because eight of the 12 victims in Wednesday’s craven attack on the satirical magazine’s offices were fellow journalists – in fact, I considered much of what they produced offensive – but free speech and humanity, warts and all, were the targets.

The scum, unfit to dignify the title ‘human beings’ and perverting the faith they purported to defend, carried out the massacre with the lethal and clinical precision of Nazi stormtroopers.

They’d clearly recce’d their killing ground well in advance, just as the callous butchers responsible for the Mumbai Massacre did in 2008, and they executed the op like seasoned special forces.

Particularly chilling was the gruesomely slick way one snuffed out the life of a wounded cop – himself a Muslim – lying helpless on the pavement, begging to be spared.

All bore the indelible hallmarks of al-Qaeda, particularly the assault on the kosher deli in eastern Paris, where four hostages were murdered, which was deviously synchronised to throw police into disarray.

So let’s be straight: these full frontal assaults on liberty cannot be passed off by pussyfooting politicos as yet more ‘lone-wolf’ incidents, concocted by fanatical ‘self-starters’.

WORLD GRIEF: This sympathiser in Moscow shares her revulsion at the attack on the French magazine

WORLD GRIEF: This sympathiser in Moscow shares her revulsion at the attack on the French magazine, Charlie Hebdo

Nothing about them was haphazard or shamateur. And the arsenal of death the assassins toted, AK47s and an RPG rocket-launcher, couldn’t have be sourced from Galeries Lafayette or even local gun shops, which proliferate in a hunting-mad country.

No, a complex supply chain, involving cells of smugglers, financiers and armourers, was needed to support these multiple barbarities and it lies somewhere in the heart of France’s five-million strong Muslim community.

Undoubtedly, the peaceable followers of Islam will be just as gut-wrenched by the hideousness of it all as their fellow-countrymen.

But – as demonstrated ad nauseum throughout Western democracies – the question will once again be posed: are Muslim community leaders doing enough in their own backyards and mosques to counter the explosion of extremism?

Secular France has a particularly testy problem with Islam. Yet, in recent times, its liberal elite has bent over backwards to excuse an uptick of attacks – much of them anti-Semitic – as merely the handiwork of maniacs.

Just before Christmas, a shopper was killed and nine wounded when a van deliberately ploughed through a crowded market in Nantes.

A day earlier a man, shouting ‘Allahu Akba’ rammed his car into crowds in Dijon, seriously injuring 13, while in Joueles-Tours an assailant stabbed three police officers, likewise yelling in Arabic, ‘God is the great’.

That same week three drive-by shootings in Paris targeted a synagogue, a kosher restaurant and a Jewish-owned publishing house.

SAVED: A hostage holding a child shows his relief after paramilitary police stormed the kosher deli in eastern Paris

SAVED: A hostage holding a child shows his relief after paramilitary police stormed the kosher deli in eastern Paris and killed the terrorist

And it is a French jihadi, then newly returned from fighting in Syria, who faces trial over last May’s ambush at Brussels’ Jewish Museum, in which three people were shot dead and another critically wounded.

Yet, immediately after the Dijon attack – which the perpetrator dedicated to the ‘children of Palestine’ – France’s interior minister, Bernard Cazeneuve, called on the public ‘not to draw hasty conclusions since [the car driver’s] motives have not been established.’

And, despite admitting ‘the investigation had barely begun,’ the local public prosecutor quickly claimed, ‘This was not a terrorist act at all.’

In fact, it took the third outrage before Prime Minister, Manuel Valls, conceded, ‘There is, as you know, a terrorist threat to France.’

Had there been any lingering doubt, Paris’s 9/1 carnage has obliterated it, because the bloodletting was all too predictable, regardless of any counter-terrorism failings.

And, in stark contrast to the appeasers who rule us, people – not merely headbanging xenophobes – were already displaying greater awareness of the unpalatable reality confronting them.

Those in the Western street long knew our civilisation is locked in a guerrilla war on our own turf, waged by an enemy within, who cloak themselves in a ruthless interpretation of an eastern faith imported by waves of immigrants, seeking opportunity in better, fairer, freer societies.

In Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel has serially failed to slap down the army of 20,000 demonstrators, who meet each week in Dresden – and growing bands of likeminded activists elsewhere in her country – demanding tighter immigration controls.

And Australian Premier Tony Abbott was rightly rapped for downplaying the attack on a Sydney café by a self-style sheikh that left two diners dead.

Even though it was evident the killer, Man Haron Monis – an Iranian, who forced hostages to hold up to the window a black flag, emblazoned with a jihadi slogan – was driven by religious fervour, Abbott insisted, ‘This event was an act of politically-motivated violence.’

Politically motivated? Maybe he also believes the Irish ultra-nationalists of the IRA and the Basque separatists of ETA were inspired by radical Catholicism to commit mayhem. Somehow I think not.

At least in Canada there is no mood for whitewashing Islamic extremism.

SATIRE SURVIVES: David Pope's cartoon in the Canberra Times puts the hideous acts of Paris 9/1 into true perspective

SATIRE SURVIVES: David Pope’s cartoon in the Canberra Times puts the hideous acts of Paris 9/1 into true perspective

After incidents involving Muslim converts killing two soldiers, Canada’s leader, Stephen Harper, didn’t mince words: ‘I have been saying we live in dangerous world and terrorism has been with us for a long time,’ he said.

So what can be done to stem the rising tide of ultra-Islamic ferocity?

For a start we can stop bellyaching that our security establishment scanning emails is a snoopers’ charter, because this is a key bulwark against those out to destroy our society.

And, as the head of Britain’s MI5 pleaded last week, invest more resources in vigilance to minimise opportunities for the merchants of death to claim further victims.

Governments also need to force internet platforms, like Twitter and Facebook, to take down suspect sites. If they don’t, hit them with astronomical fines.

The international community, meanwhile, must enforce its money-laundering pacts with real vigour, choking off cash – mainly from Middle Eastern sympathisers – that’s the lifeblood of jihadism.

A further measure is more scrupulous border checks and denying the right of return to those who join the jihad cause abroad, rendering them stateless.

Finally, to aid pan-community solidarity, those who represent mainstream Muslims – often so quick to rage – should take it upon themselves to organise ‘Not in our name’ marches.

That gesture might, just might, isolate the fanatics and stop them providing ammunition to far-Right parties expanding across Europe, whose racist venom is only likely to make a grave situation even worse.

Be afraid…be very afraid, because 2015 is the year of the cyber pirates

AS in New Years gone by, I’m full of good intent, with a stack of resolutions to change my errant ways and be a better, healthier – and, if at all possible – wealthier person.

In all likelihood, as in previous turns of the year, most will wither on the vine, a particularly apt expression in my case, since the vow to reduce plonk intake to a slurp or two only every other day is already a busted flush.

However, there is one resolution I’ve already started and am resolved to keep up for safety’s sake and my own peace of mind.

Admittedly, it’s a bit of a chore, but one I strongly advise anyone with a computer, smart phone, iPad, Tablet or any gizmo linking them to the internet should adopt, too: change your passwords and PIN numbers every month or so with Jesuit-like zeal.

Because the ‘in’ crime of 2015 will be cyber-hacking. And it won’t just be the usual suspects – like Hollywood belle Jennifer Lawrence, Downton Abbey’s Jessica Brown Findlay, model Kate Upton or Olympic gymnast, McKayla Maroney, all of whom had raunchy, private photos snatched and given a public airing – who are in the hackers’ sights.

HACKERS' VICTIM: Saucy photos of Jennifer Lawrence were stolen by cyber pirates and given an online airing

HACKERS’ VICTIM: Saucy photos of Jennifer Lawrence were stolen by cyber pirates and given an online airing

Neither is it just governments, who get hit by tens of thousands of hack attacks a day, nor global corporations, like Sony, recently forced to pull their movie, The Interview, after the North Koreans took umbrage at it spoofing their Glorious Young Leader, Kim Jong-un.

Using the nom de cyber guerre, Guardians of Peace, their response was to filch 100 terabytes – 10 times the entire printed collection of the US Library of Congress – from Sony’s internet server and selectively release some of their haul.

The raid near-crippled the studio, drew accusations amounting to ‘cowardice’ from President Obama – a man who knows a thing or two about leading from the back – and left company execs writhing with embarrassment (especially the producer who emailed his opinion that Angelina Jolie was a ‘minimally talented spoiled brat’).

That Sony ‘reinstated’ the movie didn’t mitigate their shame, further compounded on Christmas Day when a bunch of cyber cowboys dubbing themselves the Lizard Squad blitzed the company’s PlayStation server – along with that of Microsoft’s Xbox – with so much junk they collapsed, denying millions of gamers the chance to play one another online.

However, there’s nothing vaguely sinister about the bunch who skulk behind the image of a monocle, top-hatted reptile to play havoc with other people’s fun.

Outed as unsophisticated, self-serving, publicity-grubbing kids, they’re sea scouts in the murky ocean of hacking piracy, but that’s what makes them especially dangerous.

WEB WRECKERS: Cyber cowboys hiding behind the odious reptile monker, Lizard Squad, ruined millions of gamers' Christmases

WEB WRECKERS: Cyber cowboys hiding behind the odious reptile monker, Lizard Squad, ruined millions of gamers’ Christmases

Because if little-league smart alecs like Lizard Squad can wreak such damage on mega- corporations, like Sony – thanks to the easy availability on online spyware – what chance does the average iPhone user or family with an internet modem stand?

The problem is most naïve Web users don’t realise how vulnerable they make themselves by posting seemingly innocent messages on platforms like Facebook or Twitter, which reveal an awful lot about them, their families and their lifestyles.

Cyber pirates adore these social network sites, because they can ID people from photos on home pages and, if a date of birth is posted, there’s more than an odds-on chance it will be the golden key to a password or PIN (personal identification number) and a veritable treasure trove of secrets.

So a word to the wise: if you’re thinking of taking a holiday which your online friends would love to know about, keep the info hush-hush until you return, because your friendly, neighbourhood housebreaker would also be delighted to learn when your home is unoccupied.

And who hasn’t slagged off their boss, spouse or partner in an email or accessed an X-rated site. It might be nobody’s business except your own, but if it’s tucked away safely on ‘the cloud’ – a mobile storage database that lets users access messages wherever they may roam – hackers with a passing interest in blackmail will be out to snaffle it.

And, if you don’t think they can, just ask Miss Lawrence or Miss Brown Findlay what they think about this amazing on-the-hoof ‘app’, because apparently that’s from whence their saucily compromising photos were purloined.

Another ‘app’ embarrassed that its info was leaked online is Snapchat – particularly popular with teens, who like to send nude selfies, which are automatically deleted after a few seconds.

That sounds devilishly clever and failsafe, but mystery surrounds how over 100,000 images from Snapchatters suddenly found their way into the public domain. Answers on a postcard please, not via email.

SURF SECURELY: There are steps to take in making sure your Web info is properly protected

SURF SECURELY: There are steps to take in making sure your Web info is properly protected

Meanwhile, on the subject of email – and at the risk of sounding nerdy – if you log on in a café using the establishment’s wi-fi, make sure its connection doesn’t start with ‘http’, but ‘https’, which is an encrypted and secure protocol.

So, I hear you ask, how can I combat the menace of cybercrime?

For a start you could carry out a basic ‘stocktake’ of your gizmos’ security, like refreshing you passwords and PINs.

This glaring oversight was exposed in the Fleet Street phone-hacking scandal of 2011, when police were gobsmacked at the ease unscrupulous journos accessed cellphone voice mail messages. All that was needed was the targets’ PINs and these transpired to be mostly untouched factory settings, like 0000 or 1111, and family birthdays.

Ditto with internet accounts, which tend to be alpha-numeric – i.e. a mix of letters and numbers – so that ABC123DEF became one of the most popular codes in everyday use.

What’s more, people will use the same one multiple times (go on, admit you do).

On a lighter note, the probability of most folk falling victim to cyber pirates is low, though it’s a growing menace in the near future.

So ask yourself: would I go to bed with the house key in my outside front-door lock?

Neither would I. And I’ll hold that thought, since it’ll prompt me into changing my passwords and PINs regularly throughout 2015.

If all do likewise we’ll have a happy, hacker-free New Year.

Making predictions is a mug’s game, so don’t worry – mine will be 100% wrong (again!)

IN his palatial City office in London’s Canary Wharf, my friend – chief economist of a major, global financial institution – sits behind a desk so gargantuan it could the solve the issue of Heathrow’s third runway.

Chewing the fat with him one day at the height of the 2008 banking meltdown, I asked this master of the universe when he thought the crisis would end.

Instead of answering, he just shrugged, then nodded towards an ornate plinth in the corner of his mini fiefdom, on which was mounted a soccer-sized crystal ball.

‘Take a dekko inside that,’ said my friend eventually. ‘You’ve a better chance of finding the answer in there than from me.’

I left, shaking my head and musing on the folly of making predictions.

This thought was rekindled last week, when I read an apologia from a financial whizkid, who wrote, ‘No-one expected this sudden, sharp drop in crude oil prices.’

His buzzword was ‘sudden’. Because, if the anointed experts had seen it coming, there would have been no shock.

STARDOM BECKONS: Cyberhackers will forced movie moguls to move to North Korea, so Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un will be an Oscar winner

STARDOM BECKONS: Cyberhackers will force movie moguls to move to North Korea, so Young Leader, Kim Jong Un, will be an Oscar winner for his role as Wonder Woman

In fact, looking back, the only person in my experience to make an accurate prediction was Madam Petrulengo, the palmist on Blackpool promenade, who forecast I’d get a ticket on my car parked outside on a double yellow line. She was right; I did.

So, generally, it’s been my firm prediction that the likely outcome to making predictions is the predictions will be totally wrong. And, so far, my record has been 100% accurate.

Nonetheless, since it’s that time of year, worst luck, when my arm is twisted into risking a spot of soothsaying, here goes…and heaven help us if I’m right.

Firstly, the nightmarish potboiler that’s a story of purblind Eurozone politicians will rumble on, with no consensus to ease the plight of the EU’s jobless, homeless and hopeless. Shovels will be issued to Euro commissioners, so they can did themselves into bigger holes.

Beyond-the-barmy, Right-wing parties – like France’s National Front, Hungary’s Jobbick and Greece’s Golden Dawn – will democratically vote to end democracy, while Brussels Europrats will take 2015 off and nobody will notice any difference.

Vladimir Putin will order Russians to bathe in oil, because – at $60 a barrel and sliding – it’ll be cheaper than water. The population of Moscow, barring oligarchs who can afford to import Evian by the tankerload, will assume a brackish, oleaginous glow, so they’ll be light-reflective. This will reduce the number of pedestrians struck down by drunk drivers at night, thus hailed as a health and safety success by the Kremlin.

END OF THE ROAD: With petrol-powered vehicles banned, rickshaws will be London's most popular form of transport

END OF THE ROAD: With petrol-powered vehicles facing a ban, rickshaw pullers will rush to become London’s most ‘eco’ form of transport

Americans will finally realise President Obama is actually a hologram, since he’s been as effective as one for the last half-dozen years. During 2015, he’ll gradually evaporate like the Cheshire Cat in Alice In Wonderland, with only a grin left behind.

Hillary Clinton will declare her intention to run as Democratic Party candidate for the White House and she’ll face Jeb Bush, brother of G Dubya and son of HW, who’ll fly the flag of the Republican cause.

US geneticists will then discover only members of presidential dynasties possess that unique strand of DNA – the two-faced, lie-through-the-teeth, back-stab helix – to be leaders, so there’ll be a nationwide hunt for descendants of Richard Nixon to stand in future hustings.

North Korean cyber-hackers will blackmail Hollywood’s movie moguls into relocating their studios to Pyongyang and the dashingly handsome Young Leader, Kim Jong Un, will be the next James Bond, Batman and Wonder Woman, a role for which he’ll award himself an Oscar.

A bloke called Nigel will decide who wins next May’s UK General Election.

No, not that Nigel – the UKIP Farage one – but Nigel Dodds, whom nobody outside Northern Ireland (and few inside it for that matter) has ever heard of.

But with an expected mish-mash outcome to the result, with neither of the major parties winning a majority, the minor cast members will be crucial players in deciding who rules. In short, reprising 2010, the tail will wag the dog.

Which is where Doddsy comes in. Tipped to replace Peter Robinson as leader of Ulster’s Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) – the bunch invented by the late Reverend Ian Paisley, who brought the fire and brimstone of religion to bear on politics – Nige could even emerge as Deputy Prime Minister, depending on which way he throws the dice of his eight MPs.

After much cogitation, as a huge fan of Wallace & Gromit, he will come out in favour of Ed Miliband for Prime Minister, since the Labour leader is a doppelganger for Wallace and Wensleydale is also the DUP’s favourite cheese.

NOBEL LAUREATE & CIGAR MAGNET: Pope Francis will scoop the Peace Prize and the Vatican worldwide rights to selling Havana cigars

NOBEL LAUREATE & CIGAR MAGNET: Pope Francis will scoop the Peace Prize and the Vatican worldwide rights to selling Havana cigars

The Tories will sack David Cameron, merge with UKIP to become the Conservative, Unionist and UK Independence Party and elect London Mayor, Boris Johnson, as leader, who’ll make Nigel – the Farage one – Shadow Foreign Secretary.

Nick Clegg will quit as head honcho of the Liberal Democrats; their core voters will switch to the Greens, who’ll demand a ban on all forms of petrol-powered transport, resulting in an influx of Hong Kong rickshaw pullers, in anticipation they will eventually replace London’s Routemaster buses.

In the Middle East, the Saudis will wreck the Iranian economy by driving down the price of oil to a bucket of camel dung a barrel and do a back-channel deal with Israel to buy the Matzoball Bomb – a doomsday weapon with a difference, since all infected by its fallout turn Jewish.

It will first be tested on the headbanging jihadi rabble of IS/ISIL/ISIS, thorns by any other name in the side of humanity, who will – en masse – discard their AK47s to become rabbinical students.

Pope Francis will be awarded the Nobel Peace prize for his role in patching up the 45-year US-Cuba tiff; the Vatican will be given the worldwide concession to peddle Havana cigars.

Finally, the space probe, Cassini, will discover huge gold and diamond deposits on Saturn; FIFA will announce the 2026 World Cup will be held there.

So those are my forecasts for next year. But they’ll be wrong all counts, because, from long experience, I learnt there’s  no future in making predictions.

Were you a turkey or a mastermind with my EXTRA tricky Xmas quiz? Find out now…

CHECK out how you scored in my Xmas Eve EXTRA tricky trivia quiz – and find out whether you were a turkey or mastermind:-

HEADLINE HITTERS OF 2014: 1 – b (A ‘wuss’); 2 – a (Dame Helen Mirren); 3 – c (Bacon sandwich); 4 – TRICK QUESTION: Yamazaki was voted the world’s best malt whisky; 5 – b (Sharon Osbourne); 6 – a (Sheep); 7 – c (Russell Brand)

READ ALL ABOUT IT: 8 – a (Mouse); 9 – c (Oscar Wilde); 10 – TRICK QUESTION: Richard III; 11 – a (Paddington Bear); 12 – b (Mary Had A Little Lamb); 13 – c (Lady Chatterley’s Lover); 14 – a (Sherlock Holmes)

UNLUCKY DIP: 15 – b (Omega); 16 – TRICK QUESTION: The Bible doesn’t name Lot’s wife; 17 – c (M&Ms); 18 – a (Skin); 19 – b (Potassium); 20 – a (Chef); 21 – b (October – it has 31 days plus an extra hour, because the clocks go back)

THERE’S NO BUSINESS LIKE SHOWBINESS 22 – a (Paul Newman); 23 – b (Jess); 24 – c (Funerals); 25 – a (Rolling Stones); 26 – c (Green); 27 – b (North Yorkshire); 28 – TRICK QUESTION: Felicity Shagwell is Austin Power’s sexy sidekick

ALL IN THE PAST: 29 – a (William I – a.k.a. The Conqueror); 30 – c (Istanbul); 31 – c (Ronald Reagan); 32 – TRICK QUESTION: Boxing Day is also St. Stephen’s Day; 33 – a (Scientology); 34 – b (Newfoundland); 35 – b (1961)

VIVA ESPANA: 36 – b (Barcelona); 37 – c (Nose); 38 – b (V); 39 – a (La Coruna); 40 – TRICK QUESTION: Queen Letizia was once a TV reporter; 41 – c (Three – France, Portugal & Andorra); 42 – b (Costa Smeralda – it’s in Sardinia)

SO WHERE THE HECK ARE WE? 43 – b (Monaco); 44 – a (Cardiff); 45 – c (Superior); 46 – a (September); 47 – TRICK QUESTION: Saudi Arabia has no rivers; 48 – b (Greenland); 49 – c (Sargasso)

A SPORTING CHANCE: 50 – b (Red); 51 – a (Hearts); 52 – c (USA & Canada); 53 – b (Preston North End – Beckham was on loan there from Man United); 54 – a (Indianapolis); 55 – c (Carousel); 56 – b (Maria Sharapova)

IT AIN’T ROCKET SCIENCE:  57 – c (Wikipedia); 58 – b (Suntan lotions); 59 – a (Tin); 60 – c (Freckles); 61 – TRICK QUESTION: There are 16 ounces in a lb; 62 – b – (Geography); 63 – a (240,000)

… AND THE NUMBERS GAME: 64 – a (206); 65 – c (775); 66 – TRICK QUESTION: Halley’s Comet appears every 76 years; 67 – b (5); 68 – a (64); 69 – b (880,000); 70 – a (5,000)


60 to 70 Excellent, you’re an egghead…but get out more often; 45 to 59 Very good, you’re a star in the pub bar; 30 to 44 Above average, though more swatting up is needed; 29 to 15 Below average, so clearly you watch too much Coronation Street and not enough of The Chase; 14 to 5 Let’s face it: you’re a bit of a plank; Below 5 You’re the Forrest Chump of the family!