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.

Advertisements

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.

Euro court’s crazy Google gag is a ‘right to be rotten’, not a ‘charter to be forgotten’

BY the time you read this, it’ll be history. Or, as we were fond of saying in the good, old days of hot metal and cold print, today’s newspaper is tomorrow’s fish-and-chips’ wrapping.

Sardony aside, this piece is now on the internet, so in years to come perhaps some student wordsmith will read it and think, ‘Wow, that bloke could write’ or conversely, ‘What a load of b******t’.

In a free society, everyone has the privilege of a view, so those of us who live by the pen can also perish by it in the court of public opinion or, indeed, in a court of law if we cross the threshold of libel.

Which is why – whether you’re bewitched, bothered or bewildered by my utterings – you can be guaranteed that whatever I air here is based on unsullied truths, often treble checked for veracity, even if my conclusions don’t necessarily chime with yours.

As a adolescent newcomer to this surreal trade, one of the first tenets I learned was that laid down by The Guardian’s legendary editor, C.P. Scott, who, in 1921, wrote, ‘Comment is free, but facts are sacred.’

So the gleaning of accurate info is vital to my cause, my job and my service to you, the reader.

Last week, however, the ground rules shifted dramatically and I can no longer vouch that what I state is the whole truth, but something short of it.

Because that august body, the European Court of Justice (ECJ), have slammed the door on my – and your – legitimate liberty to enquire.

GOOGLE GAGGED: The internet search engine must bow to EU citizens' demands to rewrite their histories

GOOGLE GAGGED: The internet search engine must now bow to EU citizens’ demands to block their historic embarrassments

They did so by ordering Google, the world’s most popular internet search engine and the planet’s most valuable brand, to bow to an individual’s demand to hide embarrassing details of their past online, even if such data remains elsewhere in cyberspace and others, beyond the remit of Europe, continue to access it.

In principal, it enshrines in law the Brussels doctrine of the ‘right to be forgotten’, which says people should not be victims of their historic mistakes or misdemeanours.

So, any citizen of the European Union will be able to require Google – and other search engines – to block any reference to their life they personally deem unpalatable…even if, in the ECJ’s own contradictory admission, it was ‘true, accurate and lawfully published’.

The bizarre ruling was handed down after 59-year-old Spaniard, Mario Costeja Gonzalez, complained that an auction notice in a Barcelona newspaper, regarding his home being repossessed to repay social security debts in 1998, still appeared in Google searches, thus infringing his privacy.

Senor Gonzalez said the matter had been ‘fully resolved for a number of years’. And the ECJ’s 13-strong panel of judges agreed that, under a 1995 EU data protection directive, his rights ‘override, as a general rule, the interest of internet users’.

The test case is relatively small beer – not worth even a can of San Miguel lager in the great scheme of things (except, of course, to Senor Gonzalez, whose action won him a tsunami of unwanted headlines that now litter the Web).

However, its ramifications are scary, not say a full frontal attack on liberty.

EU Commissioner, Viviane Reding, believes it’s ‘a clear victory for the protection of personal data of Europeans’.

In contrast, Emma Carr, of Big Brother Watch, points out, ‘The principle that you have a right to be forgotten is a laudable one, but it was never intended to be a way for people to rewrite history.’

Her fears are understandably echoed by Google, who report over a thousand people have already demanded links to unfavourable stories about them be blocked.

They include an unnamed British ex-MP, fuming that his expenses claims paint a less than glowing portrait of his integrity, a tax scammer, 20 convicted criminals – including a paedophile – plus a surgeon, whose handiwork received negative reviews from patients.

The US-based search engine now faces a logistical nightmare in how to deal with the predicted flood of demands and says it will need a multi-lingual ‘army of removal experts’ in each of the 28 EU member states.

Even that, though, may prove a mission impossible, because the idiot ECJ’s criteria of what is ‘no longer relevant’ to the public interest is hopelessly blurred, since it fails to define what is or isn’t ‘historic’.

Nonetheless, by its clunking fist, the court has granted itself editorial powers it has no right to wield, given the internet is a global resource and this ruling infringes the American constitution’s First Amendment, the freedom of expression.

And, to further complicate the farce, the ECJ decision doesn’t apply to Facebook comments or Twitter posts.

So, in essences, the learned jurists have not only made an ass of the law – and themselves – but cooked up a crooks’ charter, whereby every miscreant from the west of Ireland to the Black Sea is empowered to act as their own cyberspace censor.

Conmen, rogue traders and motley scumbags must think the verdict is better than a ‘get out of jail free’ card, because they can rewrite their histories with complete alacrity.

EURO INJUSTICE: The ECJ's internet ban ruling is glad tiding for those who want to hide the truth

EURO INJUSTICE: The ECJ’s internet ban ruling does liberty no favours – but favours the notion that censorship rules in the EU

Ditto the rich and famous, who want their private lives – however seedy and corrupt – out of the public eye. Some already do this by employing expensive PR firms to sanitise their Wikipedia references to appear like insipid autobiographies.

But anyone, other than the certifiably stupid, knows the internet is a mixed bag of knowledge and nonsense, parts of it vital to the passage of information, science and learning; other, darker zones inflammatory, distorted and gratuitously pornographic

However, attempts to police it in the heavy-handed way the ECJ have done are nothing short of Stalinesque – or Maoesque, in the case of China, where what Beijing users can browse is a fraction of that available to New Yorkers and, until last week, Europeans.

Meanwhile, by erring on the side of those who want their pasts hidden, the ECJ judges have added yet another layer of control and restraint to liberty that’s become synonymous with the increasingly autocratic European Union.

 

The perils of the ‘anti-social’ media: Facebook follies and Twitter ‘trolls’

According to the Chambers Dictionary definition, twitter is a ‘tremulous chirping’ and ‘an excrescence on a horse’s hoof’, which I’m sure Zara Philips would recognise instantly.

Handling as it does 40 million ‘tweets’ a day, Twitter is also a social media phenomenon, so colossally popular it has ballooned into the second most-visited information exchange after Facebook.

So how come I rather favour Chambers’ latter definition, minus allusion to things equine, because I think there’s a clear and present danger it is becoming not so much ‘excrescence’ more on-line, verbal excrement?

I don’t ‘tweet’ for two main reasons: i) I’d find it nigh on impossible to say anything meaningful in a maximum of 140 characters; and ii) most of the outpourings I’ve read on Twitter are so utterly puerile, I don’t wish to join a club whose membership includes lobotomised nerds with nothing better to do than to stuff their opinionated vanities down the gullets of the gullible or similarly vacuous.

Yes, yes, I’m sure Twitter has some very salient advantages, which many folk appreciate. However, my gut instinct tells me I’m somehow not going to benefit from the ‘tweeted’ wit and wisdom of overpaid soccer stars or what some preening pop princess has to contribute on the topic of world peace.

TWEETERS BEWARE: Anonymous 'trolls' lurk in the dark zones of Twitter, often targeting women

TWEETERS BEWARE: Anonymous ‘trolls’ lurk in the dark zones of Twitter, often targeting women

Maybe it’s a generational gap – after all, 51% of its users are in the 24-34 age bracket – but frankly I suspect the whole social media scene is a minefield, too easily open to misuse by abusers dubbed ‘trolls’.

Facebook, meanwhile, can be a mixed bag, though I have a page on that site, where this blog features.

Certainly, it’s a splendid means of mass broadcasting personal messages – thereby nullifying the need to make countless phone calls – but beware of pitfalls…like saying how you’re coping after the decree nisi (fact: one in five divorces is blamed on Facebook).

Maybe the pool party photos you posted of you and what’s-his-name skinny-dipping, rat-legged, might have been to blame. The judge certainly didn’t buy the line it was just innocent fun, especially when your newly-liberated ‘ex’ was away on business in Hong Kong.

Meanwhile, was it wise to announce to every burglar in the neighbourhood you were off on that round-the-world cruise? No wonder those nasty insurance men made such a fuss over your claim for replacing three plasma-screen TVs, all those expensive electronic gizmos and your late mum’s collection of Georgian silver after they’d seen your Facebook page.

Frankly, I’m often gobsmacked at how much personal info people naively post on the internet about their plans, their thoughts and those wonderful snaps, which is why Facebook has become the first portal of call from the criminal fraternity.

Twitter, however, is an entirely different social media animal – and lately too often a vicious, nihilistic form of disseminating obnoxious disinformation by any moron with the minimal grey matter to invent a hash-tag.

So, far from social media being a positive force for democratising the internet, thus allowing individuals to plug their talents or businesses and form friendships, in parts it has become a virtual realm of dark lawlessness for the anti-social to gratuitous pervert what we glibly describe as ‘free speech’.

And, in the wrong hands, it’s fascistic, because it directly contradicts the compact that exists in a civilised society, whereby we accept moral responsibilities – and legal edicts – that curb what we can do and say.

The official media generally accept those obligations, because libel actions are expensive, while phone-hacking and bribing cops is illegal.

TWEETERING TWIT? Sally Berkow, wife of the House of Commons Speaker, paid the price for an erroneous 'tweet'

TWEETERING TWIT: Sally Berkow, wife of the House of Commons Speaker

Some ‘tweeters’, too – notably silly Sally Berkow, wife of the UK House of Commons Speaker, comedian Alan Davies and Guardian columnist, George Monbiot – also found a loose texting finger can be costly and embarrassing, after they erroneously smeared Lord McAlpine as a paedophile.

Yet, Twitter remains the preferred weapon of choice for sinister ‘trolls’, who eke out sicko pleasure in cyber-bullying and stalking an untold number of women with the most chillingly explicit menaces.

It’s also the nether world of sexual predators and racists, who can broadcast their bile by cellphone, on the hoof and ostensibly undetectable.

Meanwhile, because the demented perps hide behind the anonymity of hash-tags and operate in cowardly isolation, nobody, it seems, can collar them.

The police claim they haven’t the resources, despite managing to arrest a man over alleged death threats to British parliamentarian Stella Creasy and campaigner Caroline Criado-Perez.

And Twitter? So far their knee-jerk reaction has been little more than a cringe-inducing ‘personal apology’ from its UK boss, Tony Wang.

ABUSE VICTIM: Hannah Smith, 14, hanged herself after being bullied by anonymous 'trolls' on the Ask.fm website

ABUSE VICTIM: Hannah Smith, 14, hanged herself after being cyber-bullied by anonymous ‘trolls’ on the Ask.fm website

Twitter and Facebook, however, aren’t the only miscreants, because last week 14-year-old Hannah Smith, from Leicestershire, hanged herself, after receiving threats on Ask.fm, a Q&A site, which allows users to send messages to one another without having to disclose their identities.

Last year two Irish youngsters took their lives in separate incidents after also being bullied on the same, Latvia-based site.

Clearly, this state of internet anarchy can’t prevail and politicians everywhere seem powerless to stop the rot, except to issue pious words of condemnation.

So the solution must rest with the social media platform providers themselves, who should show some social responsibility for the billions they net, by blocking the nasties and nutters from their domains.

Until they do, ‘tweet’ at your peril and make sure your Facebook postings don’t explode in your face.

How to curb the carnage of our kids coming home from holiday in coffins…

Magaluf – Megamuff or Shagaluf in the vernacular of Britain’s rutting youth, for whom a visit is almost a teenage rite of passage – is this island’s  partying capital.

It boasts a long strand of sublime beach, gently-lapping waters and is world famous – or infamous, depending on your viewpoint – for its late, late scene, where sex, booze and drugs are in plentiful supply.

I know the place well; too well.

Punta Balena (a.k.a. ‘The Hill’) is the resort’s magnet for 18-to-25s on heat in the heat. Probably a half-kilometre long, the incline is choked with cheap bars, discos spilling out ear-splitting noise, tacky eateries and supermarkets crammed to the gunwales with budget hooch.

Garish, flashing lights make 4 a.m. seem like mid-day and it must be a surreal vision to teenagers, off their heads on cocaine, Ecstacy tabs or spliffs, washed down with of litres of San Miguel and shots of tequila chasers.

RIOTOUS RESORT: Magaluf, Mallorca’s partying capital

The local cops police it well, maintaining a watching brief unless something kicks off. Invariably it does, since there are up to 6,000 partying along The Hill on any given night during high season. So it’s testimony to the conscientious vigilance of Calvia’s Policia Local and the Guardia Civil, acting in loco parentis, that worse damage isn’t done to person and property.

As a senior officer told me during an investigation for the Daily Mail this summer (see: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2181830), ‘They all seem desperate to drink to excess, which is bewildering to us Spanish. There are plenty taking cannabis and ecstasy, too. We have police patrolling Punta Balena, but there is nothing we can do to stop them partying.’

The Hill, however, could double for a nightlife strip in any UK city, where bars stoke a binge-boozing fury, liberating sexual inhibitions and leeching drug dealers are only a nod or nudge away.

However, the key difference between Magaluf and Manchester, Birmingham, Leeds or Liverpool, is that each summer an average of five to seven of our kids perish here, while many others hobble home on crutches.

Some cynics might argue that with up to 400,000 youngsters a year letting their hair down in the island’s most-headlined resort, that’s a small percentage. But any fatality is one too many and it begs the question: WHY DO SO MANY OF OUR PRECIOUS KIDS DIE ON HOLIDAY IN MAGALUF?

PUNTERS ON THE PUNTA: Crowds throng Punta Balena, hub of Magaluf’s party scene – Photo: Jamie Wiseman of the Daily Mail

Undoubtedly cheap booze – like ‘happy-hour’ deals offering all a kid can knock back for €10 (approximately £8) – and the ease of obtaining drugs are contributory factors.

But curbing their availability isn’t the answer to the problem the Spanish call ‘balconying’, whereby youngsters accidentally death-dive off balconies in the slab-sided jungle of hotels and apartment blocks near Punta Balena that serve as dormitories for our holidaying children, many of whom are away from mum and dad for the first time.

Most of the fatalities are young men, wanting to show off, surprise friends or impress a girl by playing Tarzan. One mistake in this dice with danger and a young life, brimming with promise, self-belief and joy, is snuffed out in seconds.

As I journalist covering Mallorca, nowadays I take the coward’s way out and refuse assignments involving ‘balconying’ fatalities. I’ve just seen too many young corpses, spreadeagle on pavements of the resort’s complexes, covered by tarpaulins, waiting for an ambulance or the mortuary van to take them away.

And I’ve shared the anguish of too many bereaved parents, wearing that familiar look of disbelief and sorrow, as they confided to me tearfully, ‘But he only went away on holiday…’

HIGH-RISE PERIL: A typical Magaluf hotel boasting a baloncy with each room

The exuberance of youth, however, anaesthetises fear. Bravado, braggadocio, a crackpot, spur-of-the-moment impulse overtakes them and the lucky ones who survive live to regret it, their bodies mangled, their legs smashed.

Under the influence of dope or booze – or both – the devastation they’ll reap on their poor families back home never occurs to them.

Of course, there’s a debate about the height of hotel balcony rails, required by law to be 1.3 metres (about 58 inches) in minimum height and, to the best of my knowledge, all hotels comply with this rule.

Maybe, however, that’s not high enough today, given each generation is taller than the last and a strapping, six-foot teenager is a head higher than his dad.

But we Brits in general – and our kids in particular – don’t do balconies, because how many UK homes have one? That’s a  rhetorical question I don’t apologise for asking, since it’s a statement of fact and one of the reasons why British teenagers don’t have more respect for the dangers posed by foreign hotel balconies.

So I return to the dilemma: What can be done to stop our kids coming home from holiday in coffins?

The hotels, of course, could glass in or cover the balconies with bars or chicken-wire. This would be unsightly and possibly result in other security problems, as in the case of a fire. And nothing would have stopped one kid I know, who climbed out of a second-story, staircase window and tried to scale the outside of the building to apologise to his girlfriend after a tiff. He was lucky – a poolside sunbed broke his fall and he survived the 30-foot drop, but nonetheless needed hospitalisation.

PLAYTIME IN MAGALUF: Fuelled by cheap booze, British youngsters drinking until they drop – Photo: Jamie Wiseman of the Daily Mail

Then there are the bars and discos enticing kids to drink to the max. Do these need to be culled or forced to ratchet up their prices to make getting rat-legged unaffordable?

Not a chance, especially when Spain is in financial tailspin and needs all the revenue it can muster. Plus, most kids are canny enough to pre-load on €4 (£3.20) bottles of spirits from the local supermarkets before hitting The Hill.

So, again, back to my question…

Dispassionately, there probably isn’t a 100% surefire solution. But there are ways that could help minimise the carnage of ‘balconying’ death plunges.

Tour operator Thomson specifically warns of the dangers on its website, saying, ‘Never sit or lean over the balcony rail and do not try to pass items to someone on another balcony. Never attempt to climb from one balcony to another… after drinking alcohol as your judgment might be affected.’

And the Commonwealth & Foreign Office (CFO) carries a similar, online caveat.

This, though, smacks of officialdom just covering its back. It isn’t sufficient a deterrent, because youngsters rarely bother to read websites, unless they are social media platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter and Badoo.

So, something far more proactive and on-going – maybe for years – is required.

And it can be done through a partnership between the local hotel operators, who cringe at the publicity ‘balconying’ deaths generate, and the British authorities, who got pretty well nowhere (judging by the UK media coverage it generated and lack of impact it had on fatalities) in trying to highlight the deadly issue with a story featuring Olympic diver, Tom Daley.

No, what needs to be done is something far more proactive; a strategy implemented here, on site, in situ, where the kids are, that stop them being a menace to themselves. And it can be achieved through a partnership between the local hotel operators – who cringe at the publicity ‘balconying’ deaths generate – and Britain’s representatives in Spain.

It could even extend to the likes of Facebook, but mostly it requires a little creative, joined-up thinking, like a PR and publicity poster campaign targeted at the vulnerable and, on reflection, I’m surprised nothing like it has been tried before.

Leaflets setting out the perils of balconies to our kids should be distributed on flights en route to Mallorca; hotel lobbies should be plastered with images – the scarier the better, because that works on cigarette packaging – emphasising the dangers.

And the balconies themselves should display permanent, health warning notices, if they don’t already do so.

The message should be explicit and hard-hitting: ‘Enjoy your holiday, but beware of balconies – or you could go home in a coffin,’ it could say.

I’m not naive enough to believe such an initiative will eradicate all ‘balconying’ deaths. But if it stops one kid from climbing over a balcony rail only meet his maker, it will be worth it.

Because one less family won’t have to suffer the unimaginable grief I’ve witnessed etched on the faces of innumerable parents, who have flown to Mallorca to take the child they’ve nurtured so lovingly and tenderly home in a box.