Sunday, September 25, 2016

Doofus Of The Day #930

A tip o' the hat to several readers who sent me the link to this video.

This welder had clearly never heard of dynamic tension - at least, not in a steel pipe.  Note (early in the video) the excavator bucket holding down one side of the pipe he's cutting.  As he's about to find out . . . there's a reason for that.



This would make an epic April Fool joke

I had to laugh to read of a New York "artist" and his latest spoof project.

It’s the city’s secret tragedy: the giant-octopus attack on the Cornelius G. Kolff, a Staten Island Ferry boat dragged to a ­watery grave with 400 souls aboard on Nov. 22, 1963.

Few recall the harbor horror because news coverage was eclipsed by the shocking assassination of John F. Kennedy in Dallas that very day.

Also because it never actually happened.

But truth is no obstacle to artist Joe Reginella, the hoaxster whose slick brochures, Web site and even a statue are luring hapless tourists to a far corner of Staten Island in search of a museum devoted to the fantastical fish tale.

. . .

Said Australian tourist Tamara Messina: “The brochure sounded very intriguing,” adding that her three young sons “seemed a bit more concerned that it may happen again” as the family rode the ferry.

The Web site for the “museum” includes an authentic-looking Wikipedia entry, mocked-up newspaper articles, a video “documentary” — and an online shop hawking $25 “Octopus Memorial T-shirts.”

The T-shirts are the only thing that’s actually real.

. . .

Reginella, the mastermind behind the hoax, told The Post the prank took six months to plan and that it’s “part practical joke, part multimedia art project, part social experiment.”

He carts his “memorial” statue depicting the tragic event in cast bronze to Battery Park and other public locations and watches the startled reactions of passers-by.  (Click the image for a larger view.)

There's more at the link, including more photographs, the brochure, etc.

That's sheer comic and artistic genius!  Well done, Mr. Reginella.

(He's even set up a Web site for his project, where you can buy an octopus memorial T-shirt.  I'm darned if I don't buy one, just to say "Thank you" for the entertainment.  No, I'm not being compensated in any way for mentioning it.  I'm just highly amused!)


A populist president in the Philippines - echoes of Trump?

Austin Bay has some interesting thoughts on newly-elected President Duterte of the Philippines.  Here's an excerpt.

Filipino voters knew about what happened during the two decades Duterte ran Davao City. Crime rates and Islamic terrorist activity declined considerably. By 2005 Islamic terrorists and other criminals usually avoided the place. Now Duterte is applying his aggressive approach to fighting crime on a nation-wide scale. Since July 1st the few active Islamic terror groups left and the many drug gangs are taking heavy losses and looking for ways to deal with this unprecedented threat. Abu Sayyaf and other ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) type Islamic terrorists always fight back (and lose) but the drug gangs and are expected to be more flexible. In Davao City such compromises seem to have been avoided and threats of increased violence against government leaders was also ineffective. But now there are a lot more enemies a reformer has to deal with.

Duterte has been dealing with assassination threats and other intimidation since the 1990s and apparently knows how to protect himself and his family. As president Duterte’s aggressive anti-crime approach has had immediate results for most Filipinos. Crime is down and it’s the criminals, not the average Filipino, who are now living in fear. That is enormously popular with most voters. Some local and many foreign critics consider these vigilante methods illegal, immoral and ineffective. That remains to be proven. In the meantime these methods have, since July 1st, left over 3,500 known or suspected drug gang members and addicts dead. Most were low level dealers but these are criminals the people see daily and hate the most. As a result a recent opinion poll found 91 percent of Filipinos approved of this new “shoot on sight” approach.

While Duterte encourages Filipinos to personally fight back against crime and corruption, this is also an enormous police operation. Since July 1st over a million homes and workplaces have been visited by police investigating crime. This has resulted in the surrender or capture of over 715,000 drug suspects. But 93 percent of these were drug users and the rest were either distributors (“pushers”) or low level supervisors of distribution. Duterte had said he could arrest nearly two million drug suspects by the end of the year and use information collected from interrogations and searches of so many suspects to identify and prosecute the people running the drug gangs and the corrupt police and politicians who traditionally protected the drug operations. That process has already begun and so far there have been nearly 19,000 police raids resulting in the apprehension of about 19,000 suspects (6 percent being killed in the process). Among the dead were at least 17 corrupt cops working for the drug gangs, sometimes quite openly. Several dozen more senior police and political officials have admitted to drug gang-related corruption and surrendered.

. . .

Duterte is responding to the widespread feeling that some kind of radical solution is needed. Duterte apparently realizes that he has a short period of time to make some fundamental changes before public enthusiasm wanes and his powerful opponents (major drug gangs and corrupt senior politicians and bureaucrats) get organized. What worked in Davao City may not work on a national scale and that won’t be obvious until late 2017.

There's more at the link.

I can't help thinking that President Duterte's approach seems to have more than a little in common with Donald Trump's election campaign in the USA.  Mr. Trump is making the same populist appeal to American voters, and it seems to be having an effect.  From calling for not just an end to, but a reversal of the influx of illegal aliens, to emphasizing law and order, to cutting out bloated, inefficient government departments, Mr. Trump is appealing to a great many voters.  They can see for themselves the problems he's identified, and they know the present system is doing little or nothing to fix them.

I doubt whether Mr. Trump would issue a "Get them all!" call for vigilante justice and violence against criminals, as President Duterte has done.  Nevertheless, after many years in the Third World, I can understand the visceral appeal of such tactics.  Sure, a lot of innocent people get hurt when they're applied;  but the problems also get addressed, and frequently reduced to a level of minor background noise rather than a foreground clamor.  A lot of people are willing to tolerate infringements on their own privacy and security in order to accomplish that.

That, of course, is the frightening thing for those of us who take the constitution seriously.  We place a great deal of emphasis on the Bill of Rights.  In order for populist approaches to succeed, at least some of those rights will inevitably be honored more in the breach than in the observance.  Mr. Trump's recent call for increased New York City-style 'stop-and-frisk' tactics are a good example of that.  So much for the Fourth Amendment!  Nevertheless, popular support for efforts to reduce crime may well support such measures;  and the Peelian Principles of law enforcement may go out of the window in the process.  It's going to be a conundrum for many of us.

I think events in the Philippines will bear watching . . . as they will in this country as well.


Saturday, September 24, 2016

Music, with interludes for reloading

This video shows Russian practical shooting head honcho Vitaly Kruchin paying Beethoven's 'Ode to Joy' on steel plates using .22 handguns (which appear to be Glock pistols fitted with a conversion kit).  Since conversion kit magazines hold only 10 rounds each, in every case of which I'm aware, that can only mean that filming must have been interrupted fairly frequently to allow him to reload!

It's interesting from the point of view of marksmanship, too.  I don't think he used the sights on his pistols at all.  I wonder how many thousands of practice rounds he expended before making the recording?


More excellent advice on dealing with riots

Well-known shooting sports writer and producer Michael Bane has written an excellent article on his blog titled 'The Hour is Late...'  In it, he examines situations such as those in Charlotte, and offers sage advice as to how to conduct yourself if you should be so unfortunate as to run into one.  Reading it, I can only assume that he's 'been there and done that', just as I have.  Here's an excerpt to whet your appetite.

13) Your biggest challenge will be STAYING TOGETHER. I cannot emphasize to you how chaotic a full blown riot is and how easy it is to get separated from someone, is the equivalent of a human riptide. Your initial movement is to GET SOMETHING SOLID BEHIND YOU! You and yours do not want to be in the middle of a 360-degree ring of chaos. I always moved toward walls, business fronts, even park equipment in one case, because I wanted to limit my exposure to the panicked people running around. Be careful not to get trapped, but your worst position in in the center. If possible (and it probably won't be) have one adult stay in contact with 911 updating them on your position.

14) Try to get to a position where you can catch your breath and PLAN YOUR MOVEMENT! A riot is fluid, and it doesn't make much sense to move in the direction of the larger mass of people. THINK, then move!

15) In a terrorism situation, you're going to have to consider what has happened. If it is an explosion as what happened in New York City recently you need to get as far from the scene as you can as quickly as you can. Ideally, don't run with with crowds…as an Israeli counterterrorist expert once told me, the Israeli word for "Crowd" is "Target." The bomber will likely be in the vicinity, and the explosion may be signal to begin a larger attack with firearms or additional explosives.

There's much more at the link.  Highly recommended reading, and good advice.


Friday, September 23, 2016

Ain't so much fun when they shoot back, is it?

The video speaks for itself.  Watch in full-screen mode for best results.

Not being in color, the security camera footage doesn't show the brown streaks being left behind by the fleeing thugs.  One died of his injuries, and the cops are looking for the other two.  I did enjoy the one running straight through a glass door in his hurry to get away . . .


New toy on test

An interesting delivery arrived this morning.  The box contained a Henry Model H010 .45-70 lever-action rifle, with 18½" barrel - that company's equivalent to the well-known Marlin Model 1895 Guide Gun.  (Image courtesy of Oleg Volk - click it for a larger view.)

Unfortunately, I didn't get all that lovely ammunition with it - I'll have to provide my own!  I've ordered some Hornady 325 gr FTX LEVERevolution cartridges, which should be here shortly.

Also included was a Riton Mod 5 1.5-6x42IR scope.  It should be perfect for the short to medium ranges over which the .45-70 round excels, and the illuminated reticle should be very helpful during early morning or late-in-the-day hunting, when the light is low.

I'm going to have the pleasure of wringing out the combination over the next three months, with range time for myself and a number of friends at our Blogorado get-together next month, plus at least one (possibly two) hunts.

I've ordered an EGW Picatinny rail to fit the Henry receiver, and a couple of extended scope rings to mount the (rather long) scope as far forward as possible, so as to provide a usable eye relief.  I'll fit them when they arrive.  I'm looking forward to trying the combination on hog and deer later this year.  Miss D. and I are already eating down the freezer, and she's making suggestive noises about what she hopes to see in it before long - so I'd better not miss!

I must admit, I have a weakness for a well-crafted lever-action rifle.  They're just so darn neat, and there's a lot of history in the design.  I have half a dozen in my safe already.  If all goes well, I suspect this combination will make a worthy addition to my collection.


Perhaps Charlotte police might want to borrow the idea?

In April this year, actress Emma Thompson joined a group of anti-fracking protesters in England to hold a demonstration in a farmer's field.  A court injunction barred them from doing so, but that didn't stop them.

Furious at being prevented from working his land by the illegal demonstration, the farmer came up with a novel method of retaliation.

I wonder if Charlotte police could use that idea for riot control?  It might be a bit odiferous, but it might also disperse a mob quicker than almost anything else!  I'm sure there are local farmers who'd be delighted to assist, and those arrested for rioting could help with the cleanup . . .


Escaping a riot, redux

Following yesterday's article about 'Lessons from the Charlotte riots', a few readers have asked what they should do if they find themselves caught up in a mob situation.  It's all very well to say, "Get out of there before the trouble gets too bad", but what if you can't?

A couple of years ago I quoted Greg Ellifritz's advice in such situations.  It remains good common sense, and very practical, so I'm going to refer you again to his article, 'Mob Mentality ... Escaping from Riots and Flash Mobs'.  Here's an excerpt.

The first piece of advice I can give you is to pay attention to your surroundings and have an escape plan everywhere you go.  When you see things starting to go bad (massing police, masked looters, people setting fires) GET OUT!  Implement your escape plan!  Don’t stick around and become a target for police batons, gangs of teen looters, or panicked crowds.  Usually the people who get hurt or killed in these events are the people who aren’t paying attention or who want to stand around and be a spectator.

. . .

Having some sort of less lethal weaponry will help.  Many of the criminals who are caught up in the spirit of the riot are not very dedicated or motivated.  A quick blast of pepper spray will usually make them look for easier targets.

If you are attacked and you don’t have any spray (or the spray doesn’t work), you must act decisively.  Don’t get caught in the middle of two or more attackers.  If possible, keep moving to the outside of the group of attackers to “stack” them, or line them up so you only have to fight one at a time.  If you do get surrounded, violently attack one of the gang and either use him as a temporary shield or blast through him to make your escape.  Don’t just blindly run away, you may be running into an area where there are more problems.  Instead of running AWAY from the criminals, run TOWARD safety.  And remember that “safety” in this case may not be the band of police in their riot gear with batons out and ready!

Even if you are attacked by unarmed rioters, you still may be justified in using deadly force to protect yourself.  Multiple attackers using their fists and feet can constitute a reasonable perception of the risk of “serious physical harm or death”.  In that case, you may be justified in using your firearm or knife to protect yourself . . . Also beware that the police may have posted snipers who could shoot you if they see you have a gun.  As bad as it may sound, police often won’t differentiate between a criminal and a legally armed citizen trying to protect himself in a situation like this.  Everyone who is in the riot is thought of as a criminal.  “Criminals” shooting guns get shot by the police.

If you are in your car and are surrounded by rioting criminals, KEEP MOVING!  Don’t stop and allow them to open your doors or break your windows to drag you out.  I wouldn’t intentionally run someone over (unless that person posed a lethal force threat to me), but I wouldn’t stop either.  Pick a route (over the curb if necessary) and slowly drive through the crowd.  Your car will likely be damaged, but you will be out of the mess soon.

Don’t get in the habit of knowing only one route in to or out of a place to which you commonly drive.  Flexibility in these situations is paramount.  Keep your situational awareness up and be prepared to alter your route if you encounter throngs of people or roadblocks.

There's more at the link.  Recommended reading, particularly for all threatened by such situations.

Bear in mind, too, that your actions will almost certainly become the subject of 'Monday morning quarterbacking' by the authorities, the news media, and pressure groups such as BLM, the ACLU, etc.  They'll be scrutinizing every available surveillance video, news broadcast, etc., trying to find evidence against everyone except their people.
  • Did you strike a rioter with your vehicle as you attempted to avoid a mob?  That may be portrayed as a deliberate attempt to murder someone (particularly if they were of a different race to yours).
  • Did you shout back at the crowd as they threatened you?  You may be accused of racism, threatening behavior, or anything else that can be construed as negative or lawless.
  • Did you brandish a firearm, or fire one or more shots, to clear a space of rioters so you could get out?  No matter how legally justified you may think you were, there will be those who'll seek to portray your actions as the criminal misuse of a firearm.

Remember, legal justification or otherwise will ultimately be determined in a court of law - and the side that enlists the greatest number of witnesses (who may or may not be entirely truthful) is likely to get the result it wants.  You're going to face, in court, witnesses drawn from among rioters who want to portray your actions in the worst possible light.  Good luck with that.  You're going to need it.

What's more, any surveillance or other video of your actions may well be subject to editing by those with their own agenda.  They're unlikely to be on your side, particularly if you might make a useful scapegoat to get the authorities off the hook.  "We tried to control the violence peacefully, but people like that racist driver made the situation so much worse that we lost control!  It wasn't our fault!  It was his fault!"  That's you they're pointing at, right there.

Even if you win in court, you're going to face a lifetime of ostracism at best.  It may be a lot worse than that.  George Zimmerman will probably never be able to live a normal life again, because most black people regard him as a murderer even though he was found not guilty.  Officer Darren Wilson was exonerated after Ferguson, but he'll never be able to work in law enforcement again, and will always have to guard himself and his family against those seeking revenge.  If you think I'm wrong about either man, I have this bridge in New York City that I'd like to sell you.  Cash only, please, and in small bills.

I repeat what I've said before:  in a riot situation, you may not be able to win for losing.  Therefore, get out ahead of the riot if at all possible.  If you can't, and you're trapped in it, do the best you can . . . but realize right from the start that your options are going to be limited, and the odds of getting away clean (including the aftermath) aren't good.  That's the reality of your situation.  Choose your actions carefully with that in mind.

Finally, I wouldn't necessarily try to avoid surveillance or other camera coverage.  If you try to do that, it's pretty obvious (looking around for cameras, pointing at them, ducking away from them, trying to hide your face, etc.).  That might be considered incriminating behavior.  Camera coverage may hurt you, but it might also help to prove you did only what you had to do, and acted legally.  It's a two-edged sword.


Thursday, September 22, 2016

An online interview

Those of you who've enjoyed my books, particularly my first Western, may be interested in a lengthy online interview conducted by Scott Cole for the Castalia House blog.  You'll find it here.

Scott sent me a long list of questions, which I answered by e-mail as best I could.  He then expanded on some of the questions and added a few more, and we went to and fro for a few days fleshing out the interview.  I think the result gives some idea of how much research goes into one of my novels.  They aren't just thumb-sucked out of thin air;  even the science fiction ones are carefully studied, with 'hard science' used whenever possible (although, obviously, some non-scientific elements of space opera are there as well).

Click over to Castalia House's blog to read the whole interview.  I hope you enjoy it.


What do you do when people are hurt or killed because of a lie?

To illustrate the no-win situation in which police find themselves in these troubled times, the organizers of the riots in Charlotte, NC (and be in no doubt that they were organized - this was not just a 'spontaneous outburst'), claimed (and repeated ad nauseam) that the deceased man, Keith Scott, was carrying a book, not a gun.

Oh, really? Not according to WSOC TV in Charlotte. Here are still images of Mr. Scott's body from a video released by the station. The handgun is circled in red.

Furthermore, according to Blue Lives Matter:

Chief of Police Kerr Putney released a statement today saying a gun was found on scene, a book was not found on scene, and the officers warned Scott several times to drop the weapon before they fired on him. Chief Putney even stated that witnesses saw Scott with the gun.

What's more, it seems that Mr. Scott wasn't the icon of peaceful, non-criminal purity some are portraying him to have been.  Funny how no-one's paying any attention to that . . .

As I said earlier this morning, I continue to believe that a firearm may well not be the best answer to such mob violence.  However, with all that's coming out about this shooting, if I had no other choice, I'd feel a whole lot less reluctant to open fire on any rioters trying to drag me into the mess they've cooked up.  I'll be damned if I die for their lies.  Black Lives Matter was founded on the lie of "Hands up!  Don't shoot!"  Looks like nothing's changed, and they're still lying;  so to hell with them!  I wouldn't blame the police if they decided to target BLM organizers and give them an object lesson or two.  They deserve it.


Lessons from the Charlotte riots

So another riot breaks out in another city.  The proximate cause appears to be a black man who was shot by a (black) police officer;  but the race of the officer doesn't seem to matter to the rioters, because the Black Lives Matter crowd is all over this one.  Furthermore, the pattern of the riots appears organized, almost professional.  This isn't just an outbreak of anger and distrust.  This is organized chaos.  It's not spontaneous - it's directed, managed and deliberate.  (I think it's also guaranteed to get Donald Trump several thousand more votes . . . perhaps several tens of thousands.)

The events in Charlotte underscore what we've said about this sort of thing many times before in these pages.  Here's a brief video from yesterday evening's events, showing at least one shooting victim lying on the pavement.

Note the chaos.  If you're caught up in that, you can forget about rational thinking, logical planning and organized escape-and-evade tactics.  You won't have time, and there are too many potential threats on the scene to evade them all.  Violence is very likely to be offered to you and yours, and your only way out may be to offer (and, if necessary, put into effect) equal (and sometimes more than equal) violence to those threatening you.  That's reality.  That's the way it is.

There are some important lessons to be learned.  Firstly, a vehicle isn't going to help when the streets are clogged.  You can't drive over dozens of protestors.  If nothing else, their bodies will immobilize your vehicle, just as surely as if it became high-centered over a bump.  What's more, as soon as you're forced to slow down or stop, you're going to get dragged from your vehicle by angry rioters.  That may not be survivable.  Much rather use your vehicle to avoid getting into that mess in the first place . . . but you may not have a choice.  You may turn a corner in a city center to find the mob coming to meet you, with no time or space to avoid them.  If you're on an interstate highway, the on- and off-ramps may be blocked by rioters and/or vehicles with nowhere to go, leaving you stranded with a mob coming towards you, looting every vehicle they pass.  This is what I-85 looked like in Charlotte on Tuesday evening.

Rioters looted stalled trucks of their cargoes, taking what they wanted and torching the rest.  Hundreds of vehicles backed up behind the scene of the crime.  If yours was among them, what would you do?  Many of those present abandoned their vehicles and fled on foot.  That's all well and good, if they had the space and time to do so . . . but what if they didn't?  What if the rioters swarmed their vehicle before they could get out?  What if they, or a member of their party, had limited mobility and couldn't escape and evade fast enough?

In such a situation, resistance may be your only option.  Make sure you have a firearm handy, plus enough ammunition to defend yourself and your loved ones.  That may be difficult.  It's an unpalatable, raw, brutal fact that you may not be able to offer enough resistance to save yourself in such a situation.  If there are a couple of dozen rioters within feet of you, you probably can't shoot fast enough to get them all.  Distance is your friend.  Even if you use a firearm successfully to defend yourself, whilst that may solve Problem One (immediate survival), it's likely to land you neck-deep in Problem Two.  The aftermath of such a riot is likely to see political and social leaders screaming for a scapegoat.  If you shoot a few rioters, guess what?  You're probably it.

You're just about certain to be arrested and charged with all sorts of crimes, even if all you were doing is trying to save your life and the lives of your loved ones.  You may find it very difficult to defeat the charges in court, particularly if witnesses are scarce (or intimidated), and video footage of your activities (from nearby security cameras, hovering helicopters, etc.) is deliberately edited to portray your actions in the worst possible light.  Think that won't happen?  You're naive.

You need to have a plan, at the first sign of such troubles, to get away from the riots before they get out of control.  Make arrangements with family and friends, have bug-out bags and vehicles and plans in place (including sufficient fuel to get out of trouble without having to stop at a gas station, because they'll be magnets for looters).  Don't wait until it's too late.  Far better to get clear of potential trouble, then return if the trouble doesn't materialize, rather than wait until you're sure there's trouble, but not leave yourself enough space and time to get away from it.

That's likely to be difficult once riots become established.  A standard police tactic is to isolate the violence, establishing a perimeter to prevent it spreading.  Police will wait at that perimeter until they can see the unrest ebbing, then move inward once again to re-establish control.  That works for them, and helps to minimize casualties caused by them (and the political fallout from such casualties) . . . but it won't help you if you're trapped inside that perimeter.  The rioters will be all around you, and you won't be able to avoid them.  That's not a good place to be.  Get to the perimeter if at all possible, and seek police protection.  If you can't, you'll have no alternative but to hunker down in place and ride out the storm.

If you suspect you may find yourself in that situation, your location should be prepared in advance to resist that sort of problem.  Make sure rioters can't easily break in and get at you.  Use obstructions (plants, flower boxes, whatever) to make it difficult to approach windows;  put stout burglar bars on windows and security gates on doors, and fortify them if possible with whatever's available;  have weapons handy, and make sure that all adults and older children know how to use them.  Keep rioters outside, if possible at a distance, so they can't get their hands on you or your weapons.  If they do, your resistance is over, right there - and I don't have to tell you what your loved ones are likely to go through under such circumstances.

That's why the best possible solution is to get clear of the trouble and stay away from it until it's died down.  I've quoted John Farnam's advice several times before, most recently earlier this month.  It remains the best possible solution for law-abiding citizens.  Go read it, and heed it.  It may save your life.  Remember, a gun may solve some problems, but it can also get you into much worse situations.  It's a two-edged sword.

Nevertheless, if you have no alternative but to use lethal force to defend yourself, don't hesitate.  Your life, and/or the lives of your loved ones, is/are worth more than some rioter's.  Misplaced compassion under such circumstances is nothing more than terminal stupidity.  Never mind whether any other group's lives matter.  Your life matters, and the lives of your loved ones.  That's your #1 priority.


Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Speaking of near-death experiences in aircraft . . .

. . . to go with the one we shared this morning, how about this one?  A Greek AH-64 Apache attack helicopter flew into the Aegean Sea yesterday.  Amazingly, the crew survived.

I suspect the pilot tried to perform a maneuver without having enough airspeed or height to complete it.  That'll be expensive . . . and possibly career-ending as well.


"Why you should never post pictures of your boarding pass online"

That's the title of a cautionary article in the Telegraph.

When you’re jetting off on a hard-earned holiday you might be tempted to post a picture of your boarding pass online – but you could be giving identity thieves a free ticket into your personal details.

You don’t have to scour social media hard to find a bragging #boardingpass post – there are over 75,000 on Instagram – but an experiment by Australian airmiles whizz Steve Hui has revealed just how easily personal information can be gleaned from your flight details. In just a few simple steps, he was able to access a passenger’s full itinerary, frequent flyer logins, and even credit card details.

Hui took a boarding pass photo from Instagram, which was posted by an Australian Virgin Australia passenger on a code-share flight with Delta Airlines.

He used the passenger’s name and flight details – all of which were clearly visible on the boarding pass – to log into the ‘manage my booking’ section of Delta’s website. “I could view the passenger’s entire itinerary, and see when and where they were going to travel,” he told “Details also included their seat numbers, frequent flyer details and ticket numbers.”

Hui was also able to gain access to some of the passenger’s financial details. “It was easy to see a full breakdown of the fare paid, including the date of purchase and the last four digits of the credit card used. People could use that information to potentially cancel or change your flights, change your seat or cause other issues.”

You might think you’re safe from prying eyes if you cover up your name and flight number on boarding pass photos, but you’re wrong – Hui was also able to gain access to the passenger’s details by running the barcode through a simple online barcode reader. “I was able to retrieve all the passenger’s details without seeing the rest of the boarding card. The text provided full name, flight number, route, booking reference, ticket number, frequent flyer number and more.”

This isn’t the first time that flaws with boarding pass technology have been highlighted. In August, a Polish computer hacker used a mobile phone app to fake a QR code boarding pass and gain false entry to a number of airport business lounges.

. . .

It’s not the most controversial news to hit boarding passes either. In August 2015, an investigation revealed that airport duty free shops weren’t asking passengers to show their boarding passes for security reasons – they were using the information to claim back VAT of 20 per cent on goods sold to passengers flying outside the EU.

There's more at the link.

Since I don't use social media apart from this blog, I'd never have thought of posting a picture of my boarding pass, but I suppose in this share-everything-about-yourself world, there are those who do.  Just goes to show:  the more you share, the less privacy you have, and the more at risk you are of being defrauded or robbed.


Talk about a near-death experience!

I'm amazed no-one was killed or even seriously injured in this runway collision.  Pilot Thom Richard tells the story on Facebook.

On September 18, 2016, during the Gold final start we experienced an accident involving our F1 racer, ‘Hot Stuff’ and a fellow competitor’s airplane.

We were number four on the starting grid, which was the middle inside position with three aircraft on the front row, one to our right and three behind. Upon running the engine up in anticipation of the start, about 20 seconds before the green flag drop, the engine was not running well enough for flight, as you can hear from the audio, never mind racing. I made the decision to shut the engine down to signal the starters to halt the starting process. The flagman on my row put his hands in an ‘X’ over his head, as our procedures prescribe, and I opened my canopy to make it clear I was out of the race and so everyone could see me. The alternate airplane was signaled to taxi on to the runway to replace my entry. I felt confident the communications had reached the appropriate people and waited for personnel to push me off the runway.

However, much to my surprise, I saw the flagman run out on to the runway waving his hands over his head as if something was wrong. The aircraft to my right started rolling and a few seconds later the number six and eight aircraft flew by me on either side. All I could do at that point was hope the number seven (center) aircraft would clear me on the centerline to my right.

The impact was violent and loud. His left leading edge shaved off the top several inches from my vertical and skimmed the turtle-deck without touching until it impacted my right hand holding up the canopy, at well over sixty miles an hour. The left landing gear hit the top of the gull-wing center-section, blowing a hole in the top skin and impacted the rear face of the front spar so hard that it broke the landing gear clean off his airplane. The propeller sliced three evenly spaced gashes about mid span of my right wing, about a foot apart. The right landing gear sheared the wing off just short of the right wingtip. The impact spun me around nearly 180º, like a teacup ride at warp eight. The other aircraft came to rest several hundred feet in front of me with a folded gear, damaged wing and sheared propeller facing the other way as well. That pilot received no injuries.

There's more at the link.  Here's cockpit video of the collision. Watch it in full-screen mode for best results.

How he got out of that so lightly, I just don't know . . . and the pilot of the other plane is apparently also OK.  If they were cats, I'd say each just lost one of their nine lives!


Tannerite, bombs and terrorism

As most people already know, Tannerite, a binary explosive, appears to have been used in some of the bombs that exploded in New Jersey and/or New York last weekend.  That's unusual.  Tannerite was developed for use in exploding targets for shooters.  I've shot at it myself, with the expected results.  It's very popular at events such as Boomershoot and the Knob Creek Machine-gun Shoot.  Here's a video clip from the famous night-time shoot at Knob Creek, involving lots of machine-guns and targets of Tannerite and gasoline.

Boys and their toys indeed!  Frankly, I'm not particularly interested in shooting at exploding targets.  It can be fun, but I'd rather concentrate on marksmanship and improving my techniques and tactics.  YMMV, of course;  and the attendance at Knob Creek, Boomershoot and such events proves that for many, it's a fun pastime.

Despite being intended for use in exploding targets, if used in large quantities, Tannerite can be very dangerous.  To illustrate, here's an old barn being demolished with over 160 pounds of the stuff packed into a tote.  The shooter and his friends are obviously having a lot of fun with it, but that shouldn't obscure the risks of getting too close to a bang like that.

If confined in a pressure cooker, as was apparently done in the terrorist bombs last weekend, the explosive power of Tannerite is magnified, making it more dangerous.

Many responsible firearms owners have been warning for years that the casual, unrestricted, unsupervised use of Tannerite (such as in the barn explosion above, and in many other video clips on YouTube) was basically an open invitation to see it misused for at least criminal mischief, if not terrorism.  Those warnings appear to have come true.  I now expect to see pressure to at least restrict the availability of Tannerite and similar substances on security grounds, if not ban its sale altogether.  I'm not surprised by that.  It's a toy that can be deadly dangerous, and its use in a society threatened by terrorism is at least questionable.

There are bound to be shooters who regard this as an assault on their Second Amendment rights and freedoms.  I don't see it as such - after all, Tannerite's not an 'arm' in the meaning of the Amendment, as far as I know - but there are lots of shooters who like making loud bangs and lots of smoke and flame.  I expect there to be a lot of verbiage slung around about this over the next few months.  I can only hope that sanity will prevail - on all sides.  The reality of terrorism demands it.