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)

HOW DID YOU RATE?

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!

Try my EXTRA tricky trivia quiz…it could drive you Christmas crackers!

HERE’S my annual seasonal gift to Views From The Mallorca Pier readers – a quiz that’ll separate the Christmas turkeys from the Yuletide masterminds.

So grab yourself a mince pie and pop the bubbly to get your mind fizzing over these 70 teasing questions…but beware: in each section there’s one question that’s EXTRA tricky, because none of the multiple-choice, optional answers are correct.

No prizes, except the glory of claiming you’re the brightest bauble on the Christmas tree.

But you’ll have to wait until next Friday, December 26, to find out, because that’s when I’ll publish the solution.

So get cracking with a trivia quiz that will drive you Christmas crackers!

HEADLINE HITTERS OF 2014

MILI-BLAND: The Labour leader did little to convince he is the UK's Prime Minister-in-waiting

ED MILIBAND…what’s he eating? – See Question 3

1 – FORMER US President Bill Clinton made headlines in 2014, by calling present White House incumbent, Barack Obama, what?

a) A fun guy; b) A ‘wuss’; c) A golf nut

2 – WHICH 69-year-old theatrical ‘aristo’ became the new ‘face’ of cosmetics giant, L’Oreal?

a) Dame Helen Mirren; b) Dame Diana Rigg; c) Dame Julie Andrews

3 – BRITAIN’S Labour leader, Ed Miliband, suffered his most embarrassing moment of the year when photo’d making a mess of eating what?

a) A McDonald’s cheeseburger; b) A great British fry-up breakfast; c) A bacon sandwich

 4 – The Japanese tipple, Yamazaki, was voted the world’s best what?

a) Beer; b) Sake rice wine; c) Sherry

5WHO said Prince Harry told her to ‘F*** off’, after she asked him to look after her handbag on a visit to Buckingham Palace?

a) His sister-in-law, Kate; b) Sharon Osbourne; c) Angelina Jolie

 6THE Chinese New Year starts on February 19 celebrates what creature?

a) Sheep; b) Dragon; c) Tiger

7WHICH gobbledygook gabbler won the Plain English Campaign’s 2014 Foot In The Mouth award?

a) Top Gear’s Jeremy Clarkson; b) London Mayor’s Boris Johnson; c) Comedian Russell Brand

READ ALL ABOUT IT

Groucho Marx - See Question 8

GROUCHO MARX…were his dying words witty? – See Question 9

8 – WHAT creature was Robert Burns referring to in his poem that starts, ‘Wee, sleekit, cowrin, tim’rous beastie…’?

a) Mouse; b) Louse; c) Grouse

9 – WHICH wit’s dying words were, ‘Either the wallpaper goes or I do’?

a) P.G. Wodehouse; b) Groucho Marx; c) Oscar Wilde

10 – WHICH Shakespearean king pleaded, ‘A horse, a horse – my kingdom for a horse.’

a) King Lear; b) King John; c) Henry V

11 – WHICH kiddies’ character was created by Michael Bond?

a) Paddington Bear; b) Rupert Bear; c) Yogi Bear

12 – WHAT nursery rhyme provided the first words ever recorded on the gramophone by its inventor, Thomas Edison?

a) Jack & Jill; b) Mary Had A Little Lamb; b); c) Three Blind Mice

13 – BY was name was the Oliver Mellors better known?

a) The Count of Monte Cristo; b) Tarzan; c) Lady Chatterley’s Lover

14 – Which fictional detective had a cleverer brother called Mycroft?

a) Sherlock Holmes; b) Columbo; c) Miss Marple

UNLUCKY DIP

Mars Bar - See Question XX

MARS BAR…was it invented in 1941? – See Question 17

15 – WHAT is the last letter of the Greek alphabet?

a) Epsilon; b) Omega; c) Zeta

16 – WHAT’S the name of Lot’s wife, turned into a pillar of salt for looking back at the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah?

a) Miriam; b) Deborah; c) Amanda

17 – WHAT type of sweet did Mars and Murrie develop in 1941?

a) Mars Bar; b) Chewing gum; c) M&Ms

18 – In human anatomy, how is the epidermis better known?

a) Skin; b) Ear lobe; c) Finger nail

19 – THE letter K is the chemical symbol for what element?

a) Sulphur; b) Potassium; c) Krypton

20 – WHO would wear a hat called a toque?

a) Chef; b) French Foreign Legionnaire; c) Cardinal

21 – FEBRUARY is the shortest month, but what’s the longest?

a) August; b) October; c) December   

THERE’S NO BUSINESS LIKE SHOWBIZ

Postman Pat & his black-and-white cat - See Question XX

POSTMAN PAT & HIS CAT…but what’s the pussy’s name? – See Question 23

22 – WHICH Hollywood legend created a best-selling salad dressing?

a) Paul Newman; b) Robert Redford; c) Sylvester Stallone

23 – WHAT’S the name of Postman Pat’s black and white cat?

a) Bess; b) Jess; c) Tess

24 – MONTY Python’s Always Look on the Bright Side of Life is the most requested song at what events?

a) Baptisms; b) Weddings; c) Funerals

25 – WHICH band performed the first tune on BBC’s Top of the Pops in 1964?

a) The Rolling Stones; b) The Beatles; c) The Who 

26 – WHAT colour is The Grinch Who Stole Christmas?

a) Red; b) Yellow; c) Green 

27 – IN which real-life UK county is fictional Downton Abbey?

a) West Yorkshire; b) North Yorkshire; c) South Yorkshire

28 – WHICH movie hero’s sexy sidekick is Felicity Shagwell?

a) Ironman; b) Spiderman; c) Captain America

 ALL IN THE PAST 

Berlin Wall...but when did it go up - See Question XX

BERLIN WALL came down in 1989…but when did it go up – See Question 35

29 – WHICH English king was crowned on Christmas Day?

a) William I (The Conqueror); b) Edward II; c) Henry III

30 – WHICH ancient city was once known as Byzantium?

a) Rome; b) Athens; c) Istanbul 

31 – WHICH US President once said, ‘You can tell a lot about a fellow by the way he eats jellybeans’?

a) Gerald Ford; b) Lyndon Johnson; c) Ronald Reagan

32 – WHICH saint’s day falls on Boxing Day, December 26?

a) Francis; b) Luke; c) Bartholomew 

33 – SCI-FI writer L. Ron Hubbard created which religious cult?

a) Scientology; b) The Moonies; c) Jehovah’s Witnesses 

34 – WHAT was England’s first overseas colony?

a) Virginia; b) Newfoundland; c) Bermuda

35 – THE Berlin Wall came down in 1989, but in what year did it go up?

a) 1951; b) 1961; c) 1971

VIVA ESPANA

Spain's Queen Letizia...but what was her job? - See Question XX

SPAIN’S QUEEN LETIZIA…but what was her job? – See Question 40

36 – IF you arrived at El Prat Airport, where in Spain would you be?

a) Madrid; b) Barcelona; c) San Sebastian

37 – WHAT part of Captain Robert Jenkins’ anatomy did the Spanish cut off to cause a nine-year war with Britain?

a) Ear; b) Testicles; c) Nose

38 – EVERY Eurozone state’s banknotes have a letter on them to denote their origin, but which one identifies Spain’s euros?

a) S; b) V; c) E

39 – FROM where did the Spanish Armada set sail to attack England in 1588?

a) La Coruna; b) Seville; c) Bilbao

40 – Before marrying into the Royal Family, Queen Letizia did what job?

a) Air hostess; b) Page 3 girl; c) Dentist 

41 – How many states border Spain?

a) One; b) Two; c) Three 

42 – Which of the following isn’t a Spanish holiday hot spot?

a) Costa Calida; b) Costa Smeralda; c) Costa de la Luz

SO WHERE THE HECK ARE WE?

MUNICH'S OKTOBER BEER FEST...but in what month does it start?

MUNICH’S OKTOBER BEER FEST…but in what month does it start?

43 – WHICH European mini state has been ruled by the Grimaldi dynasty for over 700 years?

a) San Remo; b) Monaco; c) San Marino 

44 – WHICH British city has a district called Splott?

a) Cardiff; b) Plymouth; c) Newcastle

45 – WHICH is the greatest in size of North America’s Great Lakes?

a) Michigan; b) Erie; c) Superior

46 – IN which month does Munich’s beer-guzzling Oktoberfest begin?

a) September; b) October; c) November 

47 – WHAT is Saudi Arabia’s longest river?

a) Tigris; b) Euphrates; c) Nile

48 – NUUK is the capital of what island?

a) Iceland; b) Greenland; c) Madagascar

49 – WHAT sea has no coastline?

a) Aral; b) Coral; c) Sargasso

A SPORTING CHANCE

DAVID BECKHAM...he played for which lowly team - See Question XX

DAVID BECKHAM…he once played for which lowly team – See Question XX

50 – WHAT colour is the bull’s-eye on a standard dartboard?

a) Gold/yellow; b) Red; c) White

51 – IN a pack of cards, which king doesn’t sport a moustache?

a) Hearts; b) Diamonds; c) Clubs

52 – WHICH were the first teams to compete in an international cricket match?

a) England & Australia; b) India & England; c) USA & Canada 

53 – SOCCER legend, David Beckham, was briefly a star in which lowly side?

a) Millwall; b) Preston North End; c) Leyton Orient 

54 – WHICH motor racing circuit is nicknamed The Brickyard?

a) Indianapolis: b) Silverstone; c) Brands Hatch?

55 – THE soccer anthem, You’ll Never Walk, comes from which musical?

a) South Pacific; b) West Side Story; c) Carousel 

56 – WHICH tennis belle has a grunt of 101 decibels – louder than a lion’s roar?

a) Anna Kournikova; b) Maria Sharapova; c) Serena Williams

 IT AIN’T ROCKET SCIENCE

PRINCE WILLIAM...what did he study at uni? - See Question XX

PRINCE WILLIAM…what did he study at uni? – See Question 62

57 – WHAT was Jimmy Wales’s great, Internet invention?

a) Google; b) Face Book; c) Wikipedia 

58 – WHAT product’s performance is measured in SPFs?

a) Condoms; b) Suntan lotions; c) Mobile phones 

59 – WHAT metal’s chemical symbol is Sn?

a) Tin; b) Lead; c) Aluminium

60 – LENTIGINES is the medical term for what skin condition?

a) Blackheads; b) Acne; c) Freckles

61 – HOW many ounces are in a British imperial pound?

a) 10; b) 12; c) 14 

62 – PRINCE William has a university degree in what subject?

a) History of art; b) Geography; c) Astrophysics  

63 – THE Moon is approximately how many miles from Earth?

a) 240,000; b) 320,000; c) 410,000

…AND THE NUMBERS GAME

HALLEY'S COMET...but how often does it appear? - See Question XX

HALLEY’S COMET…but how often does it appear? – See Question 66

64 – THE adult human body has what number of bones?

a) 206; b) 216; c) 226

65 – ACCORDING to the BBC how many rooms are in Buckingham Palace?

a) 375; b) 575; c) 775

66 – HALLEY’S Comet appears every how many years?

a) 46; b) 56; c) 66 

67 – EU-approved bananas must have how many sides?

a) 4; b) 5; c) 6 

68 – HOW many love-making positions are described in the Karma Sutra, the world’s oldest sex guide?

a) 64; b) 69; c) 72

69 – IN the acclaimed exhibit by artist Paul Cummins, about how many ceramic poppies were planted at the Tower of London to commemorate each British soldier lost in WW1?

a) 770,000; b) 880,000; c) 990,000 

70– HOW many people does the bible say Jesus feed with five loaves and two fishes?

a) 5,000; b) 6,000; c) 7,000

 

 

 

Men can be morons, but women can’t throw and they’re quiz show ditherers

PUTTING up the Christmas decorations, I placed two chairs on either side of the French window to string the fairy lights across the top of the pelmet and down each side of the drapes.

The gap between the chairs was a tad under two metres – easily jumpable, in my humble estimation, though a view not entirely shared by my lady wife, whose name escapes me.

‘Are you crazy?’ she queried, an inflection of disbelief in her tone. ‘You’ll break your neck.’

If ever the gauntlet of challenge was cast down, those words were it.

So I duly made the defiant leap, missed the second chair by a big toe’s length and fell on my…er, nether regions, emitting an involuntary ‘Ouch!’

Feigning unhurt and disguising the bolt of pain searing through my body, I got to my feet, ignored the look of exasperation writ large on Mrs. A’s face, climbed on chair No.2 and completed the chore in womanly fashion.

This small act of masculine hubris was, however, an example of what scientists have recently labelled Male Idiot Theory (MIT), whereby men take the sort of risks – occasionally lethal – that don’t even cross the minds of females.

Evidence it exists has been drawn from a 20-year study of the Darwin Awards, an annual review of the craziest ways people have perished, which revealed almost 90 per cent were ‘won’ by men.

GETTING THE POINT: One man gets a sharp reminder of the dangers of running with bulls

GETTING THE POINT: One man gets a sharp reminder of the dangers of running with bulls

Named after naturalist Charles Darwin, whose survival-of-the-fittest research revolutionised evolutionary thought, it recognises those who have inadvertently improved the human gene pool by eliminating themselves from it by acts of monumental folly.

Writing in the Christmas edition of The British Medical Journal, Australian boffins admit they’re puzzled why men are willing to take unnecessary risks and wonder whether it’s driven by an irresponsible rite of passage or the pursuit of masculine social esteem – the so-called ‘bragging rights’ factor.

Examples cited included a man who decided to steal a ride home by hitching a shopping trolley to the back of a train, only to be dragged two miles to his death, and the terrorist who unthinkingly opened his own letter bomb on its return-to-sender, after he posted it with insufficient stamps.

Then there was the bloke who shot himself in the head with the ‘spy pen’ gun, just to show his friend it worked, and the thief attempting to nick a steel hawser from a lift shaft – unbolting it while standing in said lift, which then plummeted to the ground, killing him.

Dr Dennis Lendrem, of the University of Newcastle, New South Wales, explains, ‘Idiotic risks are defined as senseless risks, where the apparent payoff is negligible or non-existent, and the outcome is often extremely negative and sometimes final.

‘According to MIT many of the differences in risk-seeking behaviour, emergency department admissions, and mortality may be explained by the observation that men are idiots and idiots do stupid things.’

WORDS FAIL: Apparently, warning signs are for wimps in this animal fan's opinion

WORDS FAIL: Apparently, warning signs are for wimps in this animal fan’s opinion

There can be little doubt Darwin Award winners seem to make little or no attempt at risk assessment. They just do it anyway and in some cases, the intelligence of the award winner borders the moronic.

Lendrem also cited the role booze can play in making fellas feel invincible, as in the instance of the inebriated trio engaged in a variation of Russian roulette, alternately taking shots of alcohol, then stamping on an unexploded land mine.

Inevitably, the mine detonated, demolishing the bar they were in and killed all three.

Not quite a Darwin Awards contender, but worthy of mention, was the man who slipped when using a belt sander as an auto-erotic sex aid and lost a testicle.

Only quick thinking saved the remaining one, as he repaired his scrotum with a staple gun.

In a modest effort to balance the gender books, it’s my belief males learned to react instinctively – even if occasionally inanely – from the dawn of time, taking on woolly mammoths with a simple wooden spear to bring home dinner, while fending off sabre-toothed tigers.

Don’t forget, either, it was mainly blokes who had to go to war – Joan of Arc being one of the rare exceptions (but she was French, which speaks volumes about Frenchmen) – and dauntlessly sailed the seven seas to expand knowledge of the then known world.

It was Christopher, not Christine, Columbus who discovered the Americas and Captain James, not Jemima, Cook, who found an entire continent existed beyond Africa.

I could rattle on about the derring-do of us mere blokes, even if they’re occasionally tinged with lunacy, like Paris’s abduction of Helen – whose fair face launched a thousand blips, let alone ships – and caused the destruction of Troy, according to the Trojan Horse tale.

THIS'LL FIX IT: Six floors up and the aircon unit is loose...so here's how a real man mends it

THIS’LL FIX IT: Six floors up and the aircon unit is loose…so here’s how a real man mends it

But let’s be clear: males and females are hardwired differently. And that’s evident from early development, which is why my six grandsons believe they’re Spiderman and my lone granddaughter is busy combing My Little Pony’s tail.

I also believe blokes get a raw deal nowadays, evidenced by a succession of TV ads portraying males at feckless twerps, like a recent Samsung commercial for a plug-in gizmo called an Evolution Kit, which even women panned as ‘sexist’.

Then there’s all this nonsense about fellas not being ‘multi-taskers’. Well, let me tell you that while I’m writing this, I’m also eating a tuna baguette, drinking copious cups of tea, answering the phone and organising my pencils in order of the sharpest.

Not that I haven’t the highest regard for the opposite gender. After all, my wife is a woman, so was my mother, as is my daughter. And females make far more interesting conversation companions than men, unless you want to limit chat to sport, sex, cars and more sport.

But, generally speaking, how many women can throw a ball straight? And have you noticed how so many of them dither on telly quiz shows, wracking their brains, getting the right answer, then talking themselves into the wrong one? That’s providing they don’t run out of time.

Conclusion: we blokes can be idiots, but at least we’re decisive.

I rest my case.

PS: Don’t miss my tricky trivia Christmas Eve quiz in Wednesday’s blog – that’ll sort out the girls from the boys!

Silence isn’t so golden if we’re driven to keep our mouths shut out of fear

THE other day an email arrived in my inbox, accusing me of being a ‘neo-con’.

I’ve been called far worse and really didn’t take it as the insult intended, largely because the missive spewed such far-Left drivel, it might have been lifted from the Socialist Workers Party’s hymn sheet.

Just for the record, the sender ended by advising me to ‘keep your neo-con views to yourself.’

‘Nuff said. Except the post slated by whoever hides behind the nom de plume, DemoFan, was my call for Britain’s politicos to emphasise the positive side of immigration and stop playing the UK Independence Party at its favourite game.

By any measure my piece was ‘neo-lib’, perhaps a reprise from my days as a Gucci socialist (failed) and hardly ‘neo-con’, an Americanism that came to prominence as a barb aimed at President G. ‘Dubya’ Bush’s cronies.

But what got my goat was being told to shut up by someone, I guess, who’d take to the barricades at the drop of a Stop The War Coalition hint or an invite to a CND jamboree in Trafalgar Square, if, indeed, there are still enough members left in it to fill the fountain.

LET HIM SPOUT: So-called hate preachers, like Andjem Choudary,  should be given air time to condemn themselves from their own mouths

LET HIM SPOUT: So-called hate preachers, like Andjem Choudary, should be given air time to condemn themselves from their own mouths

Clearly, DemoFan’s versions of democracy’s saintliest virtue, the freedom of speech, is that it was okay to say what you liked, so long as its mantra echoed his. And any philosophy falling short of that is taboo, fascist or – as in my case – ‘neo-con’.

Yet, if I were to categorise myself it would be as a ‘free-thinker’, hidebound by politically correct rules imposed on Western society by the real fascists: a hardline, censorious liberal elite who have strangled public debate in ways more reminiscent of George Orwell’s 1984 vision of Big Brother’s Thought Police.

That notion occurred last week when I read a YouGov survey, which reported that 41% of Brits don’t feel free to air their opinions and that Britain, home to the Mother of Parliaments, has developed a ‘culture of silence’.

Of course, I realise that stat includes headbangers who believe Hitler should be beatified as St. Adolf, others on a day out from the funny farm and a few, token Flat Earthers. But it also encompasses many with mainstream opinions on techy topics, such as immigration, religion, ethics and their political preferences (admittedly, it takes some guts to fess up to voting Lib-Dem nowadays).

For the record, the poll also said 40% felt they could sound off at will and 17%, who reckon there’s too much freedom anyway.

Nonetheless, in a so-called free society, it’s worrisome that two out of five citizens keep their thoughts to themselves out of a dread they may hurt someone’s feelings, perhaps prompt a Twitterstorm and get their Facebook page trolled.

The largest proportion of the self-censored (38%) said they feared speaking up in case they uttered something illegal, while 28% stayed silent because they couldn’t stomach criticism. A further 10% thought airing their ideas might damage their careers prospects.

However, of all those polled, an overwhelming majority (77%) agreed on one point: too much protection is given by officialdom and the media to religious believers from ideas and arguments which might offend them.

In its summary of the survey, the New Culture Forum, which commissioned it, pointed a particularly scathing finger at universities, where it claimed free speech ‘is carefully monitored, not by the state or the campus administration, but by the students.’

It added, ‘Student unions now see the mental wellbeing of the student body as a reason to ban anything from a pop song to a reading group.’

ON THE LEASH: The report rapped students' unions for the control they exercise on campuses

FREEDOM TO SPEAK? The report rapped students’ unions for the ‘mind’ control they exercise on campuses

Since today’s generation of undergrads – many of whom love nothing better than a juicy demo and a chance to kick those fascist lackeys, the police – will deliver tomorrow’s leaders, I can only surmise more Big Brothers are rolling off the production line.

So, while we quite rightly have laws banning hate speech and incitement to racism, we’re in danger of stifling legitimate argument, not because it might cause actual bodily harm, but because someone, somewhere might be offended.

Britain once had a proud tradition of allowing people to speak their minds, often a shrewd ruse to suss out the real odium peddlers, who’d damn themselves from their own mouths.

But when the BBC announced that British National Party leader, Nick Griffin – a real, live neo-Nazi – was to appear on its flagship political forum, Question Time, a tidalwave of outrage nearly quashed the broadcast.

To their credit, the Beeb bravely stuck to its script, the BNP nasty duly appeared and got the pillorying his despicable views richly deserved.

That example is one of the exceptions rather than the rule, because invariably received wisdom is to gag debate, which is Home Secretary Theresa May’s policy, as she seeks to ban extremists from TV, like the so-called hate preacher Anjem Choudary.

I’d say: bring them on and let’s hear their obnoxious ravings, so we’re all aware of what degree of danger they pose.

The Establishment, though, doesn’t subscribe to the view people are capable of making up their own minds, so silence is foisted on them.

PUBLISHED & DAMNED: Instead of defending Salmon Rushdie from a death sentence fatwa, Britain's Establishment attacked the writer

PUBLISHED & DAMNED: Instead of defending Salmon Rushdie from a death sentence fatwa, Britain’s Establishment attacked the writer

Such was the case when Salmon Rushdie’s Satanic Verses hit the bookshelves in 1988, provoking a fatwa death sentence from Iran’s then Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khomeini. Yet, instead condemning a gross and medieval assault on a long-prized Western freedom, the great and good cravenly attacked Rushdie.

Nor did the fabled, fearless British Press cover itself in glory, when not a single Fleet Street newspaper dared reproduce the ‘Mohammed Cartoons’, after an obscure Danish daily sparked worldwide debate on whether founders of the great religions could be satirised.

Yet, when a ComRes poll early last year asked what freedom people prized most, freedom of speech topped the list by a country mile.

Clearly, the public subscribed to the notion, ‘I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it’ – a quote wrongly attributed to Voltaire and actually the words of his biographer, Evelyn Beatrice Hall – and that is a plucky and noble sentiment.

More’s the pity, then, the Establishment is too cowardly to share it.