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Below are the winners and losers on the sharemarket, based on the reporting season to date. Did we miss anyone?
Refining NZ went $186.4m into the red over the first half to June 30 due to sharply lower margins and throughput. Summerset Group's bottom-line profit plummeted 99 per cent from last year's $92.6 million to just $1m. NZX said its net profit shot up by 40.9 per cent to $9.1m in the six months to June 30, reflecting a significant increase in demand for capital and an unprecedented lift in share trading during the Covid-19 lockdown. Precinct Properties' operating income rose in the past year but net profit after tax fell due to devaluations from the pandemic, particularly on big inner-city Auckland office blocks. Contact Energy said its net profit fell by 26 per cent to $125m in the year to June, due in part to lower wholesale power prices. Vital Healthcare, a hospital, healthcare and medical property specialist, said its net profit fell 37 per cent to $58m. Mercury Energy has kept the faith with thousands of its mum and dad investors by eking out an increased final dividend for the June year and predicting another increase in the payout in year ahead. Fletcher Building won't pay a dividend and executive bonus packages were cut to zero after all divisional revenue and operating earnings fell in the last year. Michael Hill said its full-year profit plunged more than 80 per cent as the Covid-19 pandemic forced its stores to remain closed between five and 13 weeks. A2 Milk said its net profit hit a record $385.8 million in the June year, driven by a 34 per cent lift in infant formula sales. Coming up next (annual unless specified): Genesis Energy Auckland Airport EBOS Seeka (half year) Aug 21 Skellerup Aug 24 Chorus Freightways Comvita Aug 25 NZME (half year) Aug 26 Meridian Energy Metlifecare Spark Scales (half year) Aug 27 Air NZ NZ King Salmon Vista Group (half year) TIL Logistics Vector Aug 28 Port of Tauranga Marsden Maritime Steel and Tube Sept 3 Sky City Sept 4 Property for Industry (half year) Sept 8 Briscoe Group Sept 18 Tourism Holdings
Reporting Season: NZX Stock Market Winners and Losers to Date
There is every chance this turns out to be a relatively brief foray into more restrictive conditions, and that for most businesses the ultimate impact is benign. A2 Milk has so far been the standout, with a 34 per cent lift in net profit to $385.8m for the June year. Distributor EBOS also put in a strong showing, but Auckland International Airport and Michael Hill suffered greatly from the effects of the Covid-19 lockdowns and border closures. Mercury Energy has so far proved the be the most resilient of the power generators, reporting an increased dividend and painting a positive outlook for 2021. https://preview.redd.it/h83rfv1vrej51.png?width=1270&format=png&auto=webp&s=6b54b6eebadb8da2a88eb81ec35b67d00568d7cc RESULTS TO DATE: Refining NZ went $186.4m into the red over the first half to June 30 due to sharply lower margins and throughput. Summerset Group's bottom-line profit plummeted 99 per cent from last year's $92.6 million to just $1m. NZX said its net profit shot up by 40.9 per cent to $9.1m in the six months to June 30, reflecting a significant increase in demand for capital and an unprecedented lift in share trading during the Covid-19 lockdown. Precinct Properties' operating income rose in the past year but net profit after tax fell due to devaluations from the pandemic, particularly on big inner-city Auckland office blocks. Contact Energy said its net profit fell by 26 per cent to $125m in the year to June, due in part to lower wholesale power prices. Vital Healthcare, a hospital, healthcare and medical property specialist, said its net profit fell 37 per cent to $58m. Mercury Energy has kept the faith with thousands of its mum and dad investors by eking out an increased final dividend for the June year and predicting another increase in the payout in year ahead. Fletcher Building won't pay a dividend and executive bonus packages were cut to zero after all divisional revenue and operating earnings fell in the last year. Michael Hill said its full-year profit plunged more than 80 per cent as the Covid-19 pandemic forced its stores to remain closed between five and 13 weeks. A2 Milk said its net profit hit a record $385.8 million in the June year but the company has a problem; what to do with its cash mountain. Genesis Energy said its earnings fell due to poor hydro conditions, but the company slightly increased its dividend despite the uncertainty posed by the planned closure of the Tiwai Point aluminium smelter. Auckland Airport said its net profit plunged 63 per cent to $193.9 million. Chairman Patrick Strange said the past six months have been the most challenging of the airport's 54-year history. EBOS the Australasian distributor of healthcare, medical and pharmaceutical products, posted a net profit after tax of A$162 million, up 18 per cent. Skellerup said its net profit came to $29.1 million in the June year, level with the previous year's, despite Covid-19 disruption. Chorus confirmed once it puts the capital-intensive UFB rollout behind it in a couple of years, free cash flow will increase - and the majority of it will be paid in dividends. Freightways said disruption arising from the Covid-19 means that it will not pay a final dividend for the first time ever. Comvita after years of underperformance, says it has turned the corner. NZME has boosted its interim net profit and underlying earnings despite revenue taking a hit from the impacts of Covid-19. Meridian said its operating earnings - ebitdaf - rose 2 per cent to $854 million in the June year, driven by record generation and retail sales growth in New Zealand and Australia. Metlifecare said property revaluations reflecting valuer caution due to Covid-19's economic impact drove it to a bottom-line loss of $33.7 million. Spark reported across-the-board full-year growth despite the pandemic scare - but also warned that Covid-19 could hit harder next year. Coming up next TODAY: Air NZ NZ King Salmon Vista Group (first half) TIL Logistics Vector Aug 28 Port of Tauranga Marsden Maritime Steel and Tube Delegats Sept 3 Sky City Sept 4 Property for Industry (half year) Sept 8 Briscoe Group Sept 10 Sky TV Sept 17 Heartland Sept 18 Tourism Holdings
r/AFL Compendium of History - AFL Collapse: How the (almost) undefeated 2000 Essendon Bombers disappeared in the (almost) blink of an eye
Greetings everybody. The topic I wanted to cover for the History Compendium is inspired by SB Nation's Collapse, a really interesting series on how a sports team or athlete can collapse quickly, and go from a strong team, to a weak one. I don't even follow most of the sports they discuss, but I still find it interesting, as rarely does such a collapse happen due to a single event; normally it takes multiple events to truly make it set in, such as Sega dropping out of the console manufacturing business. And now for a collapse that is particularly painful to me. The Essendon Football Club in 2000 had the greatest season a team has ever had in the history of VFL / AFL. In 30 games (5 pre-season, 22 regular season, 3 finals), they only lost once, culminating in their 16th Premiership flag, an AFL record only equalled by Carlton (VFA and SANFL flags are another discussion). The team was made up of numerous star players such as James Hird, Matthew Lloyd, Blake Caracella, Steven Alessio, Mark Mercuri, Joe Misiti and Gary Moorcroft, and led Kevin Sheedy, who in his 20th season in charge had won his fourth premiership as senior coach. The Essendon 2000 team had a single year of dominance never equalled, and many couldn’t see how it could possibly go wrong from here. See the bombers fly up, 1993-1999 The seeds for 2000 were sown in 1993. Essendon was a team in transition; after being a strong club in the 1980s, winning the 1984 and 1985 Grand Finals, they lost the 1990 Premiership and many felt like they were due for a lean period, their premiership Captain Terry Daniher retired, and the club thought their best prospect was to blood the kids, and maybe make finals. Instead, 1993 would be one of the most even seasons ever, with Essendon and Carlton finishing top of the ladder with a record of 13-6-1. This was a season so even, that there was just two wins and a draw separating Essendon and Carlton from 7th and 8th placed Collingwood and Footscray. It was in this remarkable season that Essendon would scrape through and win a remarkable premiership, defeating Carlton in the Grand Final. While 32 year old Tim Watson wound back the clock, it was the seven players aged 21 and under, called the "baby bombers", that had people excited. By 2000, Gavin Wanganeen, David Calthorpe and Rick Olarenshaw had moved on, but Dustin Fletcher, Mark Mercuri, James Hird and Joe Misiti were all still at Essendon. The lean period many had expected never happened; after 1993, the club made finals each season from 1995-2004 (except 1997). The club lost the qualifying and preliminary finals in 1996 by just a point each, going down to a kick after the siren to Tony Lockett in the Prelim. In 1999, they were minor premiers with a record of 18-4, and seemed a lock to the grand final, drawn against Carlton in the preliminary final. Essendon had beaten Carlton in both of their home and away matches with a combined margin of 115 points, and had six more wins in the home and away season. Carlton was sixth place, and many felt that they’d only made it this far due to an unfair fixture, playing against higher ranked interstate teams at the MCG in the finals due to the finals system in place at the time. In the shock of the season, Essendon went down by just one point again, with Dean Wallis getting tackled by Fraser Brown in the dying seconds and allowing Carlton to regain possession. Carlton would be flogged in the grand final by Wayne Carey and Dennis Pagan’s Kangaroos, but many of their fans weren’t that mad; they’d denied Essendon its sixteenth premiership, which would have made them equal with Carlton for the most in the VFL/AFL. Sheedy would force his team to watch the game, a painful lesson in what they had allowed to happen; the team learned. Glory and fame, 2000-2001 Essendon’s 2000 season is the closest a team has ever gone to been undefeated, losing just one game. In the regular season and finals, they scored 150 points or more six times, and scored over 100 points another 15 times. At no point was Essendon not top of the ladder, and ended Round 22 with a percentage of 159.1. This is the fourth highest percentage a team has ever had at the end of the home and away season since 1945, and has only been eclipsed by Collingwood 2011, Geelong 2008, and West Coast 1991 (fun fact, none of those teams won the premiership that year). Their only loss of the year came in Round 21, in a game that would prove to be a vision of what football would look like in the future. The Western Bulldogs needed to win the game to be a chance for finals, and their coach Terry Wallace employed a flooding game plan, playing most of his players in defence, and players playing to a part of the field, and not onto an opposing player, which was the norm for most of the games history. This innovative strategy would restrict Essendon’s attack, and was the only thing keeping the Bulldogs in the game. Flooding and zone defence were not commonplace tactics at the time, would become the dominant one in the 2000s, most notably used by Sydney and Collingwood in the 2005 and 2010 premierships. Even then, it was a close match, with Essendon losing 12.9 (81) to 14.8 (92) due to late goal from Chris Grant, following by a kick after the siren from Rohan Smith. Essendon’s solitary loss meant they still finished top of the ladder, and Matthew Lloyd kicked 109 goals to win the Coleman Medal. Essendon broke records their qualifying final against the Kangaroos, when they kicked 31.12 (198) to 11.7 (73), margin of 125 points; not only Essendon’s highest ever score and margin, but the highest score ever and margin in an AFL final. Essendon in 2000 was so far above their competition that it was practically a forgone conclusion when they defeated Melbourne in the Grand Final 19.21 (135) to 11.9 (75). Essendon’s almost perfect season was capped by a premiership, and Darren Bewick got to retire a winner. After two strong seasons, much was expected of Essendon in 2001. They were very good, but not as dominant as before. And by not as dominant, I mean they still won their third consecutive minor premiership, with 17 wins, but they were not leagues above the competition anymore; they were ahead of second-place Brisbane on percentage. A massive highlight of the season was their Round 16 game against the Kangaroos, where after being 69 (hue hue hue) points down in the second quarter, they launched a massive comeback, and ended up winning 27.9 (171) to 25.9 (159) in the highest scoring match ever since 1994 (when quarters were shortened form 25 minutes to 20). Whenever I watch a game, I know to switch off when a team gets 70 points in front, because a 69 point comeback is always on the cards. In addition to being minor premiers again, Matthew Lloyd would win his second consecutive Coleman Medal, with 91 goals. After breezing through their qualifying final against Richmond, they had a massive scare against rank outsiders Hawthorn, but beat them by 9 points. It was here that very worrying signs began to emerge; many of their players were carrying injuries, and their late season form was struggling, as they won just three of their last six games in the home and away season. Their dream of a second premiership in a row went down in flames as they became the first victims of the Brisbane Lions’ threepeat. Essendon was outplayed for most of the game after the first quarter, the abnormally hot day also playing to Brisbane’s advantage, being used to playing in the warmer Queensland weather. More crucially, James Hird, John Barnes and Mark Mercuri were playing injured, and were not able to play at their best. The game was a repeat of the 1990 Grand Final, where Essendon was defeated by Collingwood; both teams were coached by Leigh Matthews, who as Captain of Hawthorn had beaten Essendon in 1983, but lost to them in the 1984 and 1985 grand finals. The final margin of 26 points flattered Essendon, who scored junk time goals after trailing by 39 points. After the 2001 Grand Final, John Barnes, as well as Michael Long and Dean Wallis, who missed the grand final due to age and injury, retired. As well as this, Damien Hardwick was traded to Port Adelaide. Essendon was struggling to fit their players in their salary cap, and Port Adelaide offered him a three-year deal that Essendon couldn’t match. Hardwick was a key part of Essendon’s defence, and would go on to be part of Port Adelaide’s 2004 premiership. Justin Blumfield, Chris Heffernan, Joe Misiti, Blake Caracella all would face injury concerns in the 2001 season and afterwards. So five of the players from the 2000 Premiership were already gone, and more were no longer at their best; despite this things were about to get much worse. They all try their best, 2002-2004 The AFL at the time had a veterans allowance, were players who had been at their club for 10 years had part of their salary not counted to the cap; this allowance was scrapped in 2017 as part of a new CBA the AFLPA agreed to, which saw an increase to total player payments. Depending on the number of veterans, as much as 50% of their salary could be excluded from the cap. The purpose of the veterans allowance was to encourage clubs to retain older players, as well as reward them for long service, but was phased out after Gold Coast and GWS entered, and were unable to have any players qualify. It was also felt that clubs like Geelong were abusing the veterans allowance to keep their 2007-2011 superteam together. At some point in the 2002, a grave error had been noticed in Essendon’s player salaries; the club was paying over the cap, but assumed it was fair spending in the veteran’s allowance. Much of their team had been recruited and developed over many years, rather than being traded in. However, Essendon had massively miscalculated how much money they were actually allowed to have covered by the veteran’s allowance, and realised that they couldn’t keep all of their stars. Chief Executie Peter Jackson declared that they needed to keep “marquee players James Hird, Dustin Fletcher and Matthew Lloyd”, which let a lot of other players at risk of being traded. Scrambling, they were forced to trade out three of their premiership players; Chris Heffernan to Melbourne, Blake Caracella to Brisbane, and Justin Blumfield to Richmond. Caracella would go on to win another premiership at Brisbane. At the same time, Gary Moorcroft, battling injury issues, was delisted, played one more year at Melbourne, then retired. Replacing them were Damian Cupido, a promising junior player who never reached his potential, and some drafts picks. The club would blow pick 10 on Jason Laycock, who was nowhere near the quality of the players lost. They did have some success with the other player they traded in, Adam McPhee, but one decent player can't replace several important ones. According to Kevin Sheedy "They didn't want to go, the club didn't want them to leave. But salary cap rules cannot be broken." Assistant coach Robert Shaw would later say “We were around $600,000 over the cap. We had to bring the salary cap down and ultimately Essendon had to sack three premiership stars and ultimately tore the heart out of the club.” Jackson concluded the trade period with this statement;
“Through this difficult period and in the cool light of day, I’m certain our members and supporters will see that this club has maintained a list that will be more than competitive in 2003. We are in good hands with the likes of James Hird, Matthew Lloyd, the Johnsons, Scott Lucas, Dean Solomon, Danny Jacobs, Adam Ramanauskas, Joe Misiti, Mark Mercuri, Dustin Fletcher, Sean Wellman and others.”
Just five of the players he mentioned were still at the club just five years later. The club failed to capitalise on the trades; few of the players they drafted in 2001-2006 would be long-term and successful players, and players traded in, such as Justin Murphy and Matthew Allen wouldn’t have much impact. The departing veterans were also exposing the list for what it was; incredibly shallow. Other than the players in the Grand Finals, just three would have respectable careers at Essendon; Damian Peverill, Mark Bolton and David Hille. A fourth, James Podsiadly would be delisted, Essendon having no idea that 10 years later as a mature-aged rookie, he would play in Geelong’s 2011 Premiership (fun fact, you too can purchase this amazing picture of James Podsaidly back when he had hair for the amazing price of $650). A fifth, Ted Richards, was traded to Sydney and would play in their 2012 premiership. The club’s incredible strength in their 1999-2001 era hid the fact that just about half the list was barely AFL qualify, and therefore when the older players left the club or needed breaks from playing, the other half was unable to replace them. The club also neglected in drafting youth, and would spend some of their picks on older players in an attempt to keep the list afloat, most notably in 2001 when they drafted 37 year old Paul Salmon with Pick 50, when future Collingwood leading goalkicker (and much younger) Paul Medhurst was taken by Fremantle with Pick 56. The pattern was similar in 2003. Steven Alessio and Paul Barnard retired, Danny Jacobs was traded to Hawthorn, and cruellest of all, Adam Ramanauskas was diagnosed with cancer. Fortunately, he did eventually recover, and was able to play more games, but the treatments, as well as a knee injury, affected his playing ability, and robbed the club of a great player during his prime. The exodus continued, and in 2004, Mark Mercuri, Joe Misiti and Sean Wellman retired. In the 2002 season, 20 of the players involved in the 2000 and 2001 Grand Finals were still at Essendon, but by the 2005 season, there were just 10. In 2002, they finished 5th, defeated 8th placed West Coast, and were defeated in the semi-finals by Port Adelaide. In 2003, they finished 8th, flogged 5th placed Fremantle, but were defeated in the semi-finals, once again by Port Adelaide. 2004 was a repeat of 2003; they finished 8th, narrowly defeated 5th placed Melbourne, but were then defeated in the semi-finals by Geelong. That’s three wasted years, where youth development was neglected in the chase for success, and ultimately, the result was three semi-final blowouts in a row. Infamously, their 2004 elimination final win is their most recent, a 16-year finals win drought that is the league’s current longest. Only Brisbane, who hasn’t won a final since 2009, and Gold Coast who hasn’t even made finals ever since they entered the competition in 2011, have comparable droughts. After Aaron Sandilands retired in 2019, the AFL has no current players who have lost to Essendon in a final. In fact, some mad lad who I am totally not annoyed at has made a twitter account about how lolworthy and memetic Essendon’s inability to win finals is. But they can’t get near, 2005-2007 The decline the club was in steepened sharply, and the once former powerhouse of the AFL was no struggling on-field, missing finals in all three years. The club’s inability to recruit enough talent was now obvious, as multiple early draft picks were blown on players who would be disappointing for multiple reasons, including injury, poor form, bad development, and flawed drafting strategies;
2001 Pick 18: Shane Harvey
2002 Pick 10: Jason Laycock
2003 Pick 6: Keplar Bradley
2006 Pick 2: Scott Gumbleton
2006 Pick 18: Leroy Jetta
Players they could have drafted with those picks include Jason Gram, Jay Schulz, David Mundy, Joel Selwood and Shane Edwards. They also picked up Bachar Houli, who would later be delisted and play in two Premierships at Richmond. In 2005, Essendon not only missed this shot at goal but also missed the finals for the first time since 1997. They were far away from the top teams of the day, Adelaide, Sydney and West Coast, and in 2005-2007, won 21 out of 66 games. Kevin Sheedy’s insistence on drafting tall players meant that the list was slow, and poorly skilled. The consensus with drafting at the time was to take athletes, and train them the skills, the opposite of today, where the best skilled players are picked, then made into athletes. At the end of 2005, Chris Heffernan returned from Melbourne, but in 2006, Dean Solomon was traded to Fremantle, and Dean Rioli retired. Finally in 2007, the end of an era occurred when Captain James Hird and Coach Kevin Sheedy announced their departures. In their last game together, they launched a courageous effort at defending premiers West Coast, with Scott Lucas kicking seven goals in the fourth quarter to deliver what could have been a miraculous comeback win for the departing legends, but fell short, and were defeated 21.6 (132) to 19.10 (124). As well as Sheedy and Hird, Mark Johnson, Chris Heffernan, Mark Bolton and recent arrival Scott Camporale all retired, and the club looked beyond 2007 into 2008 and the future, a future that had seemed impossibly far away in 2000, but was now here. A Hardwick in shining armour When Essendon searched for a replacement for Sheedy, the two final candidates were former player Damian Hardwick, by this stage an assistant at Hawthorn, and former Richmond player Matthew Knights, who was the coach of the Bendigo Bombers reserves team. Hawthorn refused to let Hardwick use any intellectual property that belonged to Hawthorn, which badly impacted his multimedia presentation to the board. As a result, the job went to Knights. Supposedly, Hardwick planned to institute a hardcore youth policy, trading whatever valuable players the club had left in order to hit the draft, inspired by what Hawthorn had done in his time as an assistant to Alistair Clarkson. This would have led to an extended period near the bottom of the ladder, and the heartbreaking trades of beloved players, but had the club's longterm interests in mind. However Knights, whose presentation claimed that the list was fine and only needed minor retooling, won the board over. Hardwick is currently in his eleventh season as coach of Richmond, and has won two premierships. Meanwhile, Knights’ time at Essendon was a failure, and he would be sacked a year before his contract was to run out. The club did make finals in 2009, despite having just 10 wins, only to get blown away by Adelaide. He ended up arguing with Matthew Lloyd over his role in the team, leading to him losing passion for the game and retiring perhaps earlier than he should have. Many outsiders felt that Essendon was a club stuck in the past, with their head in the sand of the VFL days, where big clubs like Essendon never had to be terrible for too long, success could be bought, and investing in a youth policy just wasn’t the way. To a club like Essendon, not making finals for three years was unacceptable, and a good reason to sack a coach; indeed, Kevin Sheedy would be sacked after three consecutive seasons of not making finals. It is indeed possible that the club grew impatient with the lack of progress under Knights, which led to a scapegoat culture and the desire to do whatever it took to win, which set the club down the dark path of the supplements saga. Always striving, 2008 and beyond The last remnants of the 2000 season would slowly trickle away. Adam Ramanauskas and Jason Johnson retired in 2008, and Scott Lucas and Matthew Lloyd retired in 2009. Mark McVeigh retired in 2011, and finally, Dustin Fletcher, retired in 2015 at the ridiculous age of 40 and having played 400 games, a club record and among the most ever. He was so old that he debuted a month before his teammate Dyson Heppell had been born. I don’t want this article to go into too much detail about the complete failures that were the Matthew Knights era, the supplements saga that ruined the promising 2012 team coached by James Hird, or the 2016 season where 12 of Essendon’s players were suspended, as I wanted this article to focus on the 2000 Premiership team. What I will say is that Essendon has failed to reach anywhere near the lofty heights they did in 2000, and has yet to win a final since 2004, despite five attempts (in 2009, 2011, 2014, 2017 and 2019), and was even expelled from the finals in 2013, where they would have finished 7th, as part of their punishment for their supplements program. But at least it led to the most Richmond thing Richmond has ever done. Essendon is currently through its longest premiership drought, sitting at 20 seasons as of 2020, with the previous longest being the 19-year drought between 1965 and 1984. The current team, coached by John Worsfold, is a very different one to the one Sheedy left behind in 2007, but has been slowly rebuilding since the supplements saga, and looks to be (finally) in the right track. Much of the squad remained loyal to the club despite the saga, the membership continues to grow, and the club currently has many players that opposition fans would be envious of. In summary The club failed to replace the outgoing talent, either with list depth or new arrivals; only the seemingly immortal Dustin Fletcher, Mark McVeigh, Damien Peverill and David Hille would stay longterm, and of the new arrivals from 2001-2006, just 12 would play 100 games or more for Essendon (Andrew Welsh, Adam McPhee, Jason Winderlich, Jobe Watson, Brent Stanton, Ricky Dyson, Nathan Lovett-Murray, Angus Monfries, Paddy Ryder, Courtney Dempsey, Heath Hocking and Alwyn Davey). Much like Brisbane after their threepeat, the club’s reliance on old hands and veterans would mean that the bottom fell out of the list as they retired or were moved on. The club's inability to see the writing on the wall and invest in youth sooner would cause them to pay dearly in the future. Finally, the game was beginning to move past Kevin Sheedy, and his 27-year tenure as Essendon’s coach was brought to an end. He would return as GWS' coach for their first two seasons, mainly as a mentor to the players and their next coach Leon Cameron, and still remains prominent in the game, but is no longer the coaching force he once was. The 1999-2001 era was ultimately a disappointment if viewed objectively; in three seasons, Essendon had 62 wins and 12 losses, but just the one Premiership. For context, Hawthorn in 2013-2015 had 61 wins and 15 losses, but won three Premierships in a row. But for Bomber fans, the 2000 season, and its 16th premiership, will always be something to be proud of, and to rub in people’s faces. I suppose the moral of the story is to gloat and be arrogant when you can, because no champion teams lasts forever, even if it seems impossible. Season to season summary 25 players played in Essendon’s squads in the two Grand Finals.
2000 draft – 24 remain
2001 draft – 20 remain
2002 draft – 16 remain
2003 draft – 13 remain
2004 draft – 10 remain, last finals win, fewer than half are still at Essendon
2005 draft – 11 remain, Chris Heffernan returns
2006 draft – 9 remain
2007 draft – 6 remain, Kevin Sheedy departs, fewer than a third remain
2008 draft – 4 remain
2009 draft – 2 remain
2012 draft – 1 remains, only Dustin Fletcher is still in the AFL
2015 draft – 0 remain
2000 / 2001 Grand Final players
John Barnes (retired 2001)
Damien Hardwick (traded to Port Adelaide 2001, retired 2004)
Chris Heffernan (traded to Melbourne 2002, traded back 2005, retired 2007)
Blake Caracella (traded to Brisbane 2002, retired 2006)
Justin Blumfield (traded to Richmond 2002, delisted 2004)
Gary Moorcroft (redrafted to Melbourne 2002, retired 2003)
Steven Alessio (retire 2003)
Paul Barnard (retired 2003)
Mark Mercuri (retired 2004)
Joe Misiti (retired 2004)
Sean Wellman (retired 2004)
Dean Solomon (traded to Fremantle 2006, retired 2009)
Mark Johnson (traded to Fremantle 2007, retired 2008)
James Hird (retired 2007)
Adam Ramanauskas (retired 2008)
Jason Johnson (retired 2008)
Scott Lucas (retired 2009)
Matthew Lloyd (retired 2009)
Dustin Fletcher (retired 2015)
2000 Grand Final players
Darren Bewick (retired 2000)
Dean Wallis (retired 2001)
Michael Long (retired 2001)
2001 Grand Final players
Danny Jacobs (traded to Hawthorn 2003, retired 2008)
Dean Rioli (retired 2006)
Mark McVeigh (retired 2012)
I hope people enjoyed this AFL Collapse. I'm keen on possibly writing more, such as Collingwood’s after Mick Malthouse, and Carlton's when Mick Malthouse joined. I also want to know if there's anything innaccurate in the post, or anything I missed that would be useful information to have.
Too long didn't read: https://youtu.be/RK8zbHaaNOw Too long didn't listen: https://youtu.be/MJs64wJnUpg Too long didn't watch: https://imgur.com/a/argv0Nk Too long didn't look: W + LMB This guide will highlight a wide variety of tips to help you harness Brig's potential. Brig has the highest win-rate at every rank across the supports and is in the top three across all heroes. If you play Overwatch competitively and wish to rank up she is the best hero to use. Unfortunately due to her launch condition she has a massive stigma of being a brain-dead hero to play. This couldn't be further from the truth, to play Brig optimally requires a great deal of mental prowess. Mechanically however she is one of the easier heroes to learn. Little has been shared about her strengths and I watch many Overwatch League players struggle with the basics of Brig.
1.0 Why play Brigitte?
She's an easy to learn difficult to master hero with an array of impactful abilities on relatively short cooldowns. Veteran players that can think ahead and quickly judge the state of play will find her both powerful and satisfying. On the other hand new players can effectively support their team by sticking with the tanks and bashing anything in range :) You won't get massive ShatteDeathblossom moments on Brig where you singlehandedly turn a team fight and everyone knows it. However playing matches where you are in the center of the maelstrom with your team around you and an important decision to make every global cooldown count is incredibly fun.
1.1 Brigitte's Strengths
Brig at 200 health plus 50 armour is hard to kill. The simple fact of it taking more time to kill Brig than any other support gives your team time to make plays. Every part of her kit is defensive. Between stuns, knockbacks, self healing and Barrier Shield you have a lot of options to keep yourself alive. Overwatch at its core is won and lost based on time so any delay increases your chance to win. She is also strong against most tanks and weak to none. This I believe is what makes her so beneficial, every map has two tanks and none pose a real threat to her. That being said Reinhardt's Rocket Hammer and Winston's Tesla Cannon both go through Shield Barrier and can quickly eliminate you if you're not careful. The balance of Brig is in her decision making, played perfectly ultimates are needed to bring you down. However if you take a few steps the wrong way the enemy team can gobble you up. Another key strength is the ability to not only heal mobile heroes easily but to toughen them up in the process. Repair Pack overheal gives teammates 50 additional armour when they are healed at full health. On damage heroes like Tracer, Echo and Genji this can often be the difference between life and death. These heroes also pose a challenge for other supports to heal. Brig's Rally is S tier for reliability, its incredibly difficult to use it and get no benefit. Though it can't really save the team in ultimate Kamehameha situations like Transcendence or Sound Barrier can. It's great for imitating a fight or weathering the storm of a turbulent battle. Rally also give heroes with energy shield (that gets depleted before armour) a massive durability boost for thirty seconds. Her other strength is that she can heal after she has been eliminated. Inspire applies a heal over time buff to all heroes within its radius that lasts six seconds. No matter what happens to Brig after Inspire is applied the healing will continue. Inspire healing your team for 300 or more health after you perish can mean the difference in tight situations.
1.2 Brigitte's Weaknesses
Short effective range and limited heals are the elephant in the room when you play Brig. You have to hit to heal outside of Repair Pack cooldowns which means post fight Brig cant top off her team. If your opponent has a defensive playstyle it is common for Brig to use all her Repair Packs then watch as her team gets chipped down and picked off. Heroes like Pharah and Echo can pose a challenge for Brig players to deal with as landing a whip on flying heroes is difficult and not generally an effective use of the ability. By far the worst matchup for Brig is another Brig. It is basically mutually assured destruction in that it's difficult to protect yourself from another Brig and you also can't get away. If you run into a team like Rein/Zarya/Brig and your tank line is anything else things get incredibly dangerous for you. Brig is the toughest support because to be effective you have to be in the front lines of battle. This means that if you aren't aware of enemy cooldowns like Hook/Halt you can quickly be picked off. Knowing when to hold firm, when to retreat and when to push are important traits of successful Brig players.
1.3 When should I pick Brigitte?
Pushing a cart on attack and control maps all align strongly with Brig's skill sets. The healing from the cart in conjunction with your own makes it difficult to dislodge Brig. Control maps are often chaotic with players going in all directions. This type of fight favours Brigs as you can work with a damage hero to pick off players or protect your support from divers. For beginners I would recommend only picking Brig when you have another main healer (Ana, Baptiste, Moira) on your team. Those three heroes enable you to focus more on overhealing your damage players for the armour buff and crowd controlling aggressors. Experts can match with any other support well depending on map/hero lineups. The tanks that Brig excels against are D.Va, Hammond and Winston. All three have relatively low DPS with large hitboxes and tend to come at you allowing for easy inspires. Importantly they all do rapid small attacks which are poor against armour. Whilst Brig is good against all the tanks if I could pick any lineup to vs it would be these three. Tanks that are great to play with are Barrier tanks that can protect you as you get within range. Reinhardt, Zarya and Brigitte is the most common lineup you will see and an easier one to play on. In terms of damage heroes that Brig is strong against it often comes down to your ability to keep your partner support alive rather than kill potential. Brig should lose 100 out of 100 1v1's against Doomfist. However Brig can protect herself and her other support from Doomfist dives incredibly well. Genji is a hero that often gives support trouble with his evasive movement and damage bursts. Brig can push Genji's away and has the potential to stop his Sword with a Shield Bash kill or by Whip Shotting them out of range. Any bursty damage heroes that push into enemies is a good match for Brig. It's popular in Overwatch League for Brig's to effectively pocket Tracer's and Echo's with Repair Packs. The extra armour allows them more time to get a kill before retreating. Brig's forte is healing damage heroes and working in conjunction with their other support to fend off enemy dives.
1.4 When should I swap off Brigitte?
The short answer is NEVER! Brig can provide value on any map with and against any team. Whether your team believes this is another matter :) Open maps like Havana pose a challenge for Brig to get value on if the enemy is always out of Whip Shot range. If your team is a static long range setup like Orisa/Sigma/Ashe/McCree/Ana and the enemy never pushes into you, you often become a Repair Pack bot. Brig isn't providing much benefit here and heroes like Baptiste or Zen could provide substantially more. That being said if you are attacking, Brig can still be strong around the cart. On Havana specifically the indoor section is great for Brig. However the final push into the sand castle is not well suited to her. You will come across this frequently where another hero might be more suited to certain sections against certain teams. Your own skill at Brig and other supports will determine if you need/want to swap in those situations.
2.0 Playing Brigitte
Brig appears to be a fairly clumsy hero when you first scratch the surface. She is however quite nuanced and requires a lot of micromanaging to play optimally. In order to play Brig at the highest level I would HIGHLY recommend changing the default keys. My key setup is as follows Ability 1 (Whip Shot): Left Mouse Button Ability 2 (Repair Pack): Mouse 5 Ability 3 (Rally): E Primary Fire (Rocket Flail): Left Shift Secondary Fire (Barrier Shield): Right Mouse Button Shield Bash: RMB + LShift
2.1 Control Explanation
The main change is swapping Rocket Flail and Whip Shot. The ability to accurately land Whip Shots is a massive part in winning games with Brig. By playing first person shooters you will have trained your LMB to be the most accurate key you press. Therefore it makes complete sense to have the only ability in Brig's kit that requires accuracy to be bound to Left Mouse Button. When playing Brig you should have your shield deployed when you initiate most Whip Shots. By having my key setup Brig now plays exactly the same as Widowmaker. Hold down RMB to aim then press LMB to shoot. Rocket Flail is an ability you hold down for extended periods of time quite often. It is far easier to pan with your mouse when you aren't holding down LMB. Shield cancelling is a mechanic I will introduce later which also greatly benefits from LShift Rocket Flail. The ability to maneuver and apply Repair Packs to your team in the heat of battle is imperative. By taking it off the default E key you are now able to strafe right with D and heal at the same time. In addition Repair Packs functionality allows you to hold down the key and pan across a target to initiate the heal. This is made much simpler when its bound to Mouse 5.
2.3 Keep Your Shield Up!
Any time your shield is down you are effectively at half life. You can block over four hundred damage with a fully charged barrier. It takes three seconds to fully recharge and you can redeploy it after a break in two seconds. Every single time you die you should check to see if your shield charge is at maximum. If so its highly likely you could have avoided that death by simply blocking damage with your near instant shield. The number one fault I see in Overwatch League players Brig's is that they die to blockable damage out of melee combat on full shield charge. Not only does shield double your life it expands your field of view to third person allowing you to see far more. You can even use third person view to check around corners. A hidden benefit is that like Widowmaker you have more mouse control when you are putting pressure on the RMB. This increases your accuracy whilst protecting you from a wide range of abilities like Flashbang, Seismic Slam, Hook, Biotic Grenade, the list goes on.
2.4 Shield Hops
https://youtu.be/MJs64wJnUpg?t=321 This is essentially a difficult mechanical skill Brig's need to acquire to optimise her play. Identical to Reinhardt's shield hops to boost movement speed this playstyle vastly increases your defense as well as expanding your awareness with third person view. With precise timing you can move at over 90% speed with shield uptime close to 85%. You want to be incorporating Shield Hops into your movement any time an enemy can damage you, where appropriate. If you are playing deathmatch this is at all times. The order of operations for a Shield Hop is Jump -> Shield Barrier (hold) -> (release) Shield Barrier -> Land -> Repeat. The sooner you activate Shield barrier post jump the greater protection you have. Releasing just before you land is important to maintain speed into the next jump. A common defensive strategy is to Shield Hop backwards away from danger. Shield Bash is used as a movement skill more often than a stun. To lengthen the momentum gain you can hold down jump which initiates a hop at the end of the Shield Bash. This is useful for landing Whip Shots on targets just out of range. You can also use the jump hold to Shield Bash away from a target then turn back mid air post Bash and Whip Shot them.
2.6 Inspire management
A key focus is to keep your six second heal over time up on as many team members as possible. To do this you need to be positioned in a central area relative to your team. Depending on your teams composition this is not always possible, focusing on inspiring the tanks will often lead to good outcomes. Inspire is a risk reward calculation in terms of how likely you are to land a hit proccing Inspire and the chances of surviving the attempt. Being aware of the exact range of your Rocket Flail and the time it takes from activation to first damaging phase is crucial. A good tactic is hugging a corner and activating Rocket Flail before you peak so that the instant an enemy is in range you get an Inspire proc. Brig is very much a cooldown dependent hero and once you run out your effectiveness greatly diminishes. After you land a whip/melee you might pull back for a few seconds to recharge your shield and health before pushing forward to get the next Inspire. I see a lot of Brigs push forward and stay forward until they die. Brig is able to disengage from most battles, the simplest is just to hop backwards with shield up until you are out of line of sight.
2.7 Rocket Flail mechanics and Shield cancels
https://youtu.be/MJs64wJnUpg Rocket Flail is essentially a light saber with a charge up period. Anywhere you move your mouse whilst the light saber is charged will damage a target. It is possible to damage everything in range around you on every Rocket Flail activation by rapidly panning 360 degrees. This is not an effective use of Rocket Flail however it does highlight its functionality. Although, you can only land one hit per target per activation. This means that if you have one target, it is faster to cancel the Rocket Flail animation with your Shield Barrier as soon as you land an attack rather than wait for the return swing. How this works in practice Holding down Shield Barrier (good Brig doubling her life) Holding down Rocket Flail (currently blocked by deployed shield) Release Shield Barrier (the held down Rocket Flail initiates its attack) Charge up period where the swing animation begins and you center your mouse on target Rocket Flail hits the target proccing Inspire and displaying a hit marker Tap Shield Barrier to reset the Flail (Rocket Flail remains held down) 2nd Rocket Flail charge up period begins (rinse repeat) There are a few things to note here. Firstly your shield will not recharge whilst you are using it for cancelling animations of Rocket Flail. Also any time spent with the Shield Barrier key depressed during the tap lengthens the time before the next Rocket Flail will initiate. Thus it's incredibly important to have a light touch when shield cancelling. A sign you are holding Shield Barrier down too long is that you are able to see the shield start to form between Rocket Flails. This style of flailing greatly increases your accuracy and marginally increases dps at the expense of shield recharge and a slight mobility loss. To offset the mobility loss of the snare whilst shield is deployed you can jump during 3/4's of your attacks. An added benefit is that when you cancel with Shield Barrier you block any attacks that arrive at that instant. Against heroes with slow attacks like Hanzo or Roadhog you can deploy your shield just long enough during the cancel to block one attack before releasing into the next Rocket Flail.
2.8 Repair Pack usage
To use Repair Pack you can either mouse over your target and press the key or hold the key and swipe across the target. The second option works well when you only have one available target to heal in a given area. If there are multiple targets the first one you swipe across will receive the Repair Pack. Try to always ensure that Repair Pack is at two or less charges. Any time you are sitting on three charges you are effectively wasting resources. Repair pack heals for 110 health over two seconds and/or provides a 50 armour buff to the target once they reach full health. The armour buff can last up to five seconds so with Repair Packs cooldown of six seconds you can keep one target buffed 5/6ths of the time :) The tactic of boosting key damage heroes armour so that they can win exchanges is incredibly powerful. Whilst you are doing this though you gain little ultimate charge as only healing and damage provide percentage. Also you are generally increasing the amount that another support has to heal and reducing their damage output in turn. With that in mind its important to evaluate whether armour boosting is getting value for your team or if you would be better off triage healing. As Brig has a limit on healing output its important to focus on smaller health pool heroes. Repair Pack is far better suited to healing evasive smaller hitbox heroes that other healers like Ana/Baptiste might struggle to hit reliably. Healing tanks does provide a nice chunk of ultimate charge so anyone under 50% (besides Roadhog) is a viable target. Assuming all targets are damaged and facing equal threats heal priority goes to your other support then damage heroes and lastly tanks. This is massively subject to change based on the evolving circumstances around you and most notably any hero that has an ultimate ready. Being aware of what cooldowns your teammates have available, especially the tanks will inform you to make better decisions as who gets your Repair Packs.
2.9 Tank Triage Case study
There is no catch all for always heal A before B in Overwatch. Knowledge of the game and how it plays out will aid you in making the right decisions on who to heal when. Lets look at a common lineup of Brig/Rein/Zarya and when to Repair Pack them. Zarya generally is an awful target for Brig to Repair Pack due to her 200 energy and Particle Barrier. Reinhardt is quite a good target as they often take damage so any overhealing that goes to armour will be helpful. However for the first 5-10 seconds of the team fight they are a low risk of dieing as it's likely they can shield or recieve a Projected Barrier from Zarya to survive. During the inital periods of the fight your Repair Pack would be better spent on a damage hero or second support. Once Reinhardt's shield is close to breaking and Zarya's barriers are on cooldown the need to Repair Pack rises dramatically. In the first fight of the map Reinhardt is far more valuable than Zarya as they are likely to charge into an Earthshatter. On successive fights where Zarya is nearing Graviton Surge her value increases accordingly. When healing with an Ana give priority to topping them off over anything else as every Bitoic Grenade they use on themselves sets your team back. Ana's tend to be reluctant to ask for healing so keep an eye on them.
3.0 General Tactics
Where is the enemy? Point your shield at them. Where is your team? Where is the rest of your team? Where is the enemy now? Inspiring your team requires you to be aware of where they are. Their positions are often rapidly changing so you need to be dynamic and changing with them. There is little point in landing amazing Whip Shots onto targets that never die only to Inspire yourself. I see Brig's often move to a side flank to land a whip in the back line of the enemy team before regrouping with their own. This playstyle rarely results in a positive for your team and should be avoided. When playing with more mobile tanks like Winston and D.Va Brig will often fill the roll of offtank for the front line while the tanks are diving a target. Its important in these instances to focus on delay rather than holding the line. You are tanky but you are not a tank, any tanking you do do is with the help of other heroes. If you are with Rein/Zarya and Rein dies then you become the de facto offtank and with Zarya's help can DELAY an enemy team. You cannot attack a full enemy team in that circumstance and expect a good result.
3.1 Hit to Heal
A super aggressive Brig is generally more valuable than a super defensive one. You need to focus on positioning yourself so that you can land Rocket Flails and engage with the enemy. This can mean standing front and centre with your tanks or in the midfield waiting for a dive comp to engage. The more aggressive your opponent is the easier it is for Brig as you can just bend with the tide rather than having to push through and around barriers. It's worth trading a single blow with Reinhardts to get Inspire off but don't find yourself in a swinging match with them. Whip Shot should be your go to for Inspire procs even if they are in Rocket Flail range. It does more damage and the knockback will decrease the damage output of the enemy as they reestablish. Pushing tanks back multiple times a fight makes it far harder for them to gain ground and allows your own tanks some breathing room. Getting into the habit of Whip Shot first also improves your aim faster and prepares you for more difficult situations where your only opportunity to get Inspire is via Whip Shot.
3.2 Aggressive Patience
As Brig you go through peaks and valleys of usefulness. The peak times when both teams crash together you find yourself in the centre of chaos. Here it is not about identifying what to do but which threat poses the greatest risk and how you can mitigate that. Waiting for an important stun like Roadhog's heal can win fights however simply Shield Bashing away to cover might be the better option. During these peak times act on decisions that make an impact directly rather than waiting for big plays to appear. Conversely you have the valleys where you are either out of cooldowns or waiting for the next engagement. Focus on checking your teams positions, what ultimate charge they are on and gauging which enemies might have their own ultimates. Quite often the enemy will be out of your range and you have nothing to do except stay alive and Repair Pack. Its important in these times to be thinking about what the battle will look like when you are in range and how best to setup for that. You don't want your Shield Barrier on half charge just before your about to get into melee range. Also don't be afraid to do nothing for six seconds while Repair Pack recharges. In this time be gauging your next moves and anticipating theirs without feeling the need to push a risky attack just to be doing something.
3.3 When to Rally?
Unless you are playing with a stacked team it takes quite awhile to build ultimate on Brig. It's not an ability that you need to wait for that perfect moment to use like Lucio's Sound Barrier. Get three or more team mates in the radius and use it a couple seconds before the team fight begins for safe uses. Technically its better to wait until your team has taken damage before you Rally if they are able to survive that damage. In practice you end up waiting to press Rally too long and someone gets picked off that otherwise would have survived with 100 armour buff pre-fight. Rally lasts for ten seconds which is two and half Whip Shots worth, don't feel the need to wait to use it. There is quite a lot of decision making around Rally that only comes into effect when you are able to track your enemies ultimates accurately. For 99% of players, on attack use it as your team starts to come into LOS of the enemy and on defense just before they initiate. The movement speed buff you get from Rally is amazing and enables you a lot of freedom to be aggressive whilst Rally lasts.
3.4 So you're about to die...
Often on Brig death is not a surprise and you can see it happening from a few seconds away. In these moments its important to delay that death as long as possible whilst expending all available cooldowns to heal what you can. Far better to get two more Repair Packs off than one last Rocket Flail on an already Inspired team. If you have no abilities available a broken shield looking down the barrel there is always AD spam and crouch. Practicing prolonging these situations will enable you to survive mid-fight where you might otherwise not have. One dodged shot is often all it takes to live long enough for a team mate to help you, eliminate the enemy or capture the point. Lastly a broken shield is a couple seconds away from use, holding down the Right Mouse Button will deploy it as soon as its available.
3.5 Healthpacks are the third support hero
Healthpack locations are the most important information available to you about any map. Fighting around them you often have the ability to secure them whilst starving your opponents of the extra healing. They also play a part in deciding who to Repair Pack. On maps such as Lijang Night Markets where there is a mega healthpack available right where you tend to fight its healing can allow you to focus on heroes further away. When deciding how to get from point A to B try to incorporate as many healthpacks along the way as you can. Brig at half health full shield can safely move to a nearby pack without putting extra pressure on your support to heal you. Telling tanks to use nearby mega healthpacks when your out of Repair Pack charges can also be helpful.
A huge mistake people make is that because Brig has a simpler set of abilities that practice is not required. Every hero can be improved and pregame warm ups help prepare you for greater challenges. I would highly recommend any player spending five minutes at the Practice Range, five minutes in a custom game then a match or two of Quickplay before starting Competitive.
4.1 Practice Range
https://youtu.be/MJs64wJnUpg?t=467 Start practice by cleaving the first two training bots from right to left using shield cancels. In between respawns Repair Pack the damaged Friendly Bot down the ramp and Whip Shot Tracer behind you. This warms up all the main keys. Move on to Rocket Flailing one bot at a time in a compass pattern using shield cancels. Attacking from all angles of N, NE, E, SE etc helps you get used to targeting enemies in the air or whilst your airborne. Finish at the first two Training Bots by having your back to them focusing your crosshair on Tracer. Rotate 360 degrees with Rocket Flail landing the cursor back on Tracer in both directions. This technique allows you to quickly get an attack off when you know an enemy is behind you as well as smoothing your mouse movement. After the spins move down the ramp to the two damaged Friendly Bots, keep them alive while destroying the two attacking Training Bots. Focus on keeping Repair Packs on cooldown. You can whip one of the Training Bots to either side to practice cleaving in a wider arc. This is a good spot to try some 180 degree whips. Align yourself looking at a Friendly Bot in the firing path of a Training Bot. As you turn around Whip Shot the Training Bot behind you. This exercise is reinforcing smooth quick pans you practiced earlier. From here move into the roaming Training Bots and practice jump shield canceling to continue to dps while moving. Try to use Whip Shot and Shield Bash on cooldown and keep the two Friendly Bots alive with Repair Packs, Inspire and Rally. This drill is the most game like and allows you to incorporate movement into your ability warm up. I mostly use Shield Bash as a movement skill here to get into position for Whip Shots that will Inspire the two Friendly Bots. It also establishes the concept that you need to be near your Teammates to heal them effectively, though with Repair Pack charges you can venture further away safely. Ensure Repair Pack charges stay below three.
4.2 Custom Game : JPEDK
https://youtu.be/MJs64wJnUpg?t=694 Inputting the code above will form a skirmish game against bots with no cooldown on Brig's abilities. After loading settings click "ADD AI" then "Add" then "Start." Nothing can be eliminated in this mode however you can boop enemies off some maps. Your focus should be to to Shield Bash and Whip Shot as much as possible whilst Repair Packing friendlies on the way. You are practicing the range and mechanics of your abilities for five minutes or so at a rapid pace. You can basically do as you wish here and make up your own practice routines for things you want to work on. Avoid Whip Shotting slept enemies and tanks with Orbs of Harmony. Block Biotic Grenades, Hooks and Hacks and Shield Bash enemy ultimates. After you miss a Whip Shot ensure you Repair Pack next as the healing opportunity was missed. Try to target all enemies and keep track of who your against and where they are. I like to target enemies in order of Support -> Damage -> Tanks so that my overall awareness improves. It can also be fun to juggle Roadhogs into the sky with Whip Shots and try to keep them afloat.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-YAd8DOzqZY The most important fact about Quickplay is that its unbalanced. The maps themselves (except Control) aren't balanced and the heroes will rarely be mirrored. Players might be on a hero for the first time and/or playing in ways that you don't expect. The outcome of this volatility is that you need to be able to adapt to an ever changing environment. Overall players tend to be less skilled as they are learning heroes they are inexperienced with. This works well for Brig in that you tend to be able to survive longer against similar opponents than you would otherwise. However your own team will be facing the same issues so backup from them is less likely. Focus on healthpack positioning and a more defensive playsytle. It's important to recognise who the stronger players are and focus your resources into helping or stopping them. The rock paper scissors of Overwatch heroes is a large factor in QP so even if you have players feeding you can still persevere with the rest of your team. On payload defenses try to practice losing slowly as the likelihood of victory is slim. It all comes down to time in the end so be happy with any defense that goes late, regardless of the outcome. When you do die be sure to watch the killcam and investigate why. Did you die attacking an enemy or defending an ally? Where was your team and how much Shield Barrier was remaining? If you frequently die with Shield Barrier on full charge it should prompt you to hold your shield up more. If there are no ally's nearby try to position yourself closer to them in the future. You should also take note of the enemies ultimate charge during the killcam and relay that to your team.
5.0 Competitive Game Tips
All of the above applies to competitive games in some way. The main thing about competitive mode is that it's far longer than any other mode. With this in mind its vital you don't let small losses upset your focus towards the greater goal of victory. Even if you get stomped in the first round it is still entirely possible to turn it around and win the match. Patience is key so endeavor to shrug off the defeats and focus on the next opportunity to succeed. In one-sided fights prioritise building as much ultimate as you can as well as dying with your team. Brigs can often survive for extended periods only to be then staggered forcing your team to wait on your respawn. I don't tend to focus too much on winning but rather to lose as slowly as possible. Gaining rank is much more about turning narrow defeats into draws or victories than perfecting a winning strategy. There are far too many variables across games to promote any one style over another. To truly excel you need to able to go through a series of strategies every fight and recognise why you need to be hyper aggressive for a few seconds then ultra defensive for the next. The simplest strategy is endeavor to stay alive and utilize your cooldowns effectively. How can you position to Inspire more teammates, land more Whip Shots and be able to apply Repair Packs to those who need them. Staying alive and cooldown utilization don't always go hand in hand so you have to weigh up the risk of your current position and what benefit that provides to your team. Work with what you have even if you feel the result is likely a loss. It's common for Overwatch players to look for solutions by encouraging team mates to swap onto what they see as more preferable heroes or to play in certain ways. When your thought pattern is to solve the problems by changing others you will miss opportunities to improve yourself. Strategies that only work for the game you're in are of low value so try to think about strategies that apply to all games of Overwatch. It's far easier to see what went wrong than what went right. When you do lose a one-sided game reflect on things you can do directly to keep yourself and the team alive longer. Often one-sided games are far closer than they appear and one kill can/could dramatically alter the outcome. Don't get bogged down by a loss but also don't overhype your input during a resounding victory. One person even a wallhacking aimbotted Widowmaker does not ensure a win. It takes a team to win and this is always apparent when you play Brig. Winning games on Brig is much more about enhancing your teammates ability to do what they do whilst hampering your opponents. When in doubt protect the other support and and try to Inspire the tanks.
Brig is one of the best spotters in Overwatch. The ability to look around corners in forward positions from relative safety lets you see what is coming. Quickly relaying this information to your team can greatly improve your odds of winning. The vast majority of players do not know the call outs for each zone so try to limit comms to "Threat, Location". "Roadhog, top right", "Tanks coming main", "Echo behind point" etc. For fast moving characters like Winston and Hammond that are always changing location simply state "Hammond diving now". This way your teammates that are otherwise occupied are aware that healing might be diminished whilst you deal with threats they can't currently see. "Out of Repairs" can be good to tell team mates that are milling around you below full health. This way they know that future heals from you are delayed and they need to seek out a healthpack or the second support. "I have Rally come to me", this phrase can be helpful as often players expect you to get to them and rarely is that possible. Brig is a hero that is often panning around the battlefield from the center of it so you tend to have a decent idea as to how the fight is progressing. When you see that everyone is healthy and especially if you have Repair Packs up your sleeve try to encourage the team to attack. This tends to play out by you Repair Packing a damage hero and saying "With you Genji push now". Confidence is king and instilling it into your teammates is massively beneficial. If your second support dies you should say "X is dead, protect me". Especially if the support is the first pick in a teamfight. At that point your opponent can focus on you and there is nothing you can do by yourself to survive. By moving to protect you your team will also get themselves within Inspire range as well as bringing targets towards you to Whip Shot. To heal a team by yourself you have to get Inspire procs, otherwise they are looking after themselves. "Well done", "Nice play", "Great heals", "Nice shatter" these phrases build trust with your team and will greatly increase the likelihood of your other information being well received.
5.3 In Real Life Settings
Drink water and stand up between games to stretch. Keep your hands warm and promote circulation in your arms. If your mousepad is less than a rulers length(30cm) a side it is your most valuable upgrade at ($5 to $30). Playing on monitors with refresh rates higher than 60 is a massive advantage. Ensure your fps in game is higher than your refresh rate by reducing the visual settings in Overwatch to low. As a general rule having the settings on low reduces visual clutter and can improve player performance.
My defensive buy-and-hold portfolio, started ~1y ago, beat its benchmark for the first time yesterday. Evaluating what I've learned over the last year
About one year ago, I started to move a portion of my savings out of a passively-managed strategy and into an account I actively managed for the first time. My reasoning was twofold. First, I became interested in learning more about the stock market and investing in general. Second, I had a medium-term bearish outlook, and wanted to see if I could develop a defensive portfolio that would achieve decent returns. In a past post, I described this as follows:
I am a young, fairly bearish investor. I am concerned about a significant market downturn in the near future, but as a young investor with room to tolerate a fair amount of risk I don't want to sit out growth opportunities. So I am trying to build a portfolio that can capture gains during the remainder of the bull market while still being protected in the event of a recession.
I embarked on this effort knowing that stock-picking was a bad idea, that I probably cannot beat the market, etc. (This all still holds true.) But, it was a fun little challenge that motivated me. I decided to see if I could beat a total-market equity index, and chose the Wilshire 5000 as my benchmark. Yesterday, for the first time since inception, my portfolio's performance crossed over my chosen benchmark: proof. This isn't really a brag post, since this probably isn't going to last long (I underperformed the market today...) and it certainly isn't anything approaching a good enough sample. But since it has been encouraging to make up some ground over the course of the coronavirus drop, and this is something of a milestone, I've decided to do a little self-evaluation of what I've learned, gotten right, and gotten wrong to keep myself honest. Hopefully, some other investors will take something interesting away from this post so it's not a purely masturbatory exercise. After taking a little while to find my footing, I established two main rules for myself.
Long term buy-and-hold only
I definitely, 100%, have no idea how to time the market. I don't know what's gonna happen tomorrow or the day after. TA is bullshit, and institutions that are smarter and more knowledgeable than me are out there arbitraging short-term inefficiencies and processing new information much more effectively than me. The logical conclusion from this knowledge is to put money in total-market index funds if I want the highest return. I consciously accepted a near-certain loss of money by choosing to pick stocks. I aim to mitigate that loss as much as possible by not trading, not panicking, and not trying to get cute with options, shorting, or other instruments I don't understand. I buy shares in a company and I will continue to accumulate them as I save income until a time that my investment thesis fundamentally changes, at which point I sell all my shares. Over the course of the past ~year, I've only sold two companies: one because my investment thesis changed, and one because I rushed in too quickly and realized I didn't really understand it as well as I thought I did.
Don't invest in anything I don't understand
If I was going to invest based on analyst recommendations, popular sentiment, or desire for diversification, I should again simply invest in a total-market index fund. Since I am (accepting that I will likely fail and) trying to 'beat the market', I will commit to this, and only invest in companies which I understand and have some reason to believe will outperform the market's expectations. (I will likely be wrong.) The bare minimum for 'understanding' the business of a company requires:
Reading the most recent 10-K (or equivalent report), with a key focus on: nature of the business, risks highlighted by management, health of the balance sheet, any figures or accounting tricks I don't understand, current state of the industry/important competitors, secular trends in the industry. To build up the basic facts I need to know about the company and business.
Reading all recent investor presentations, earnings call transcripts, other communications from the company. To see what management is drawing attention to (or deflecting attention from), and try to understand what's currently going on with the company.
Read the accessible analyst reports and opinions on the company. Not to develop an investment thesis, but to check my work - to see if there are concerns or arguments I'm not thinking of, to understand why overall sentiment might be with/against my own.
I have done the above for all the companies I have a position in. This should get me at least to the point where I could explain the business to a friend at a high level, identify short term head and tail winds for the company, and explain what the prevailing Street sentiment is. Frankly, this is not enough for me to really feel like I 'understand' the business. I have found myself surprised and disappointed by how little information is contained in things like 10-Ks. For a few of my holdings, I have dipped my toe into the waters of trying to put together some independent research on the company's performance. For example, in researching $KSU (a railroad), I dug through some transportation reports and BTS data to try to build up a picture of flows through their rail network, but found myself unable to do so to my satisfaction. I'm not sure if my failure is because I'm not 'in the know', and there exists good ways for professional equity analysts to put together this information. Alternatively, maybe they're all hacks who are just regurgitating data from the most recent 10-K. My presumption is toward humility in cases like these given that I really don't know what I'm doing, but this still has been a point of frustration. If anybody knows some good books or resources on how to conduct equity research, I'd love to hear it. This rule has probably limited my performance a lot, since a lot of the best-performing companies are in big conglomerates in the tech or healthcare sectors. I am a 'tech guy' (software developer), but don't claim to really understand the details of a lot of the big tech companies. And I tend to shy away from conglomerates, because it's hard to keep track of all the moving parts of the business and develop an investment thesis. My preference is toward small- or mid-cap companies that have one core competency that they do very well. Now, to discuss what I've actually done. Aware that we were nearing the end of a market cycle, and having a natural proclivity toward the excessively cynical and pessimistic, I wanted to build a portfolio that would outperform through a recession that might occur within the next 2 years. However, as I mentioned above, I didn't want to simply sit in cash or gold or something, since that would suggest market-timing abilities I don't have, and I wanted to be able to reap the rewards of a potentially ongoing bull market. I read a lot, and have read a lot about the 2008 recession. I am finding now that probably the biggest flaw in developing my strategy was that it was too backward-looking, i.e., I was imagining a recession triggered for basically the same reasons that 2008 was. (Probably, people who have been on reddit are familiar with how many were simply assuming that student loan debt or corporate debt would play the role of mortgages in 2006-08. As well as the ever-present quoting of "The Big Short". I fell prey to the same thing.) Of course, the crisis we are currently in is not identical to the one we experienced in 2008, and of course it wouldn't be - it's always the punch you don't see coming that knocks you out. Chalk this up as another good reason to not believe myself smarter than the market and simply invest in a total-market index fund. I break down the holdings in my portfolio, broadly, into three segments:
These are companies whose value is primarily in real assets like land, pipelines, commodities, etc. My picks erred toward sectors I thought would hold value and be resistant to bubbles like we saw in housing in 2008. Tickers: $AUKNY, $PAC, $BIP, $KMI, $WMB, $DOC, $SPG, $AUY, $WY I bought $PAC (operates a group of airports in Mexico and one in Kingston, Jamaica) because I was bullish on US-Mexico trade and felt that air travel will have durable demand going forward. I knew it would take a temporary dip during any recession, but felt that this was a much bigger threat to airlines than airports, especially given that Mexican airport operators work via government concession. I was looking to buy $AUKNY (Auckland NZ airport) on a dip and initiated a position after the March downturn. Obviously, air travel gets hit a lot worse during a pandemic than during your average recession. $PAC has been one of my worst performers so far. I purchased a lot at $128 and it has been as low as ~$40 in the last month. However, I am still very confident in this sector long-term and am adding significantly to my positions here. $BIP, $KMI, and $WMB are all heavily in the natural gas pipeline business (midstream), though $BIP is a conglomerate with diversified infrastructure exposure. I felt that natural gas is in a secular uptrend, but that midstream would be steadier than oil companies or direct commodity price exposure, as the fee-based structure and wider moats from the pipelines mean they're insulated from price swings. Obviously this sector has also been somewhat hard hit from the oil price war (also difficult to predict!). However, the midstream companies are insulated to an extent as I had hoped. I also seemed to have picked some of the best performers in the sector, which was fortunate. I have been averaging down on these companies as well. $DOC is a Medical Office Building (MOB) REIT. They have a solid record of growth via profitable acquisition and I felt that MOBs (which tend to be filled with specialists, as opposed to hospitals where core emergency services are) might be in a secular uptrend due to aging boomers and also might be better insulated from potential changes to health policy from the federal government. I thought their lease model and sector were well-positioned for a recession. $DOC has been one of my best performing positions to this point, down less than 5%. Not sure how the virus is going to affect them going forward differently from a normal old recession. $SPG is the largest premium mall REIT in the US. I felt that the 'retail apocalypse' narrative was slightly overblown and that while there would certainly be contraction in brick-and-mortar, this would hit the lowest-margin properties first, and that brick-and-mortar retail would simply concentrate into the highest performing malls. This matched my personal experience (with friends and family), at least. Since $SPG had premium properties and were making good moves in the 'experiential' development space to bring people into their malls, I felt good about their chances going forward. A pandemic doesn't care if you're a mediocre mall or a premium mall. I feel this position has the highest chance of permanent capital loss and will be reviewing my thesis as the next quarterly reports come out and the Taubman deal potentially closes. $AUY is a junior gold miner. I wanted exposure to gold but don't like simply owning the shiny stuff since it isn't a productive investment. I felt $AUY was being unfairly punished for divesting some mines when I first got in; I liked their decision to refocus on their core holdings and improve the balance sheet. $AUY is my best performer and I'm up about 50% on my position so far. $WY is a timberland REIT that also sells lumber and some engineered wood products. I was waiting for a dip to initiate this position and got in at ~$17 post-corona crash. This is not really a flashy business but I feel that their demand will largely be deferred rather than disappearing and the trees aren't going anywhere. Hoping to see a return to ~$30 and stable dividends afterward.
These are companies whose businesses are 'internal' to the economy, and not directly exposed to strength in discretionary income. I hoped these companies' revenues would hold up even in the case of collapsing consumer confidence/demand, like we saw in 2008. Tickers: $INGR, $KSU, $WRK $INGR primarily processes corn into starch/syrup, and refines these into more specialty ingredients. I liked their vertically integrated business model and the fact that we'll always be eating corn. I felt they were making the right moves to expand margins by improving their specialty offerings without decreasing broader market share. This is a pretty defensive sector and my position is down less than 10%, one of my better performers. $KSU is the smallest Class A railroad with a well-positioned and strategically important network that has great exposure to US-Mexican trade. Rail is an industry that I felt would continue to have secular growth long-term. Transportation stocks dipped but have rallied pretty well and this position is also down less than 10%. $KSU is one of my strongest conviction holdings and I am adding aggressively on all dips. $WRK is in packaging and containerboard. They supply for Amazon; enough said, really. I felt they were making some strategic acquisitions and wanted exposure to this industry. This sector is an interesting one, and I'm not fully up on how it's being impacted by coronavirus. On the one hand there's additional demand for shipping to houses with stores shut down, but many of the retailers shutting down are also big customers for the industry. This position has outperformed the broader market but I'm trying to learn more about what to expect here going forward. Will be keeping a close eye on earnings reports in this sector.
Defensively-positioned Consumer Discretionary
I didn't want to avoid consumer discretionary entirely, since this sector saw a lot of gains. But I wanted to pick companies with good balance sheets and products with durable demand, that could survive and expand market share through a recession. Tickers: $LEVI, $SKX, $RACE, $TTWO, $ULTA, $CVS $LEVI and $SKX were my picks for apparel. Both of them share near-pristine balance sheets with solid direct-to-consumer sales, which I felt would be important for any retailer to survive a recession. For $LEVI, I liked their brand strength and how they were leveraging it with their diversification into more women's clothes and tops. For $SKX, I felt that demand for shoes might fit a model where people would shift toward lower price-points as opposed to cutting purchases. Like, if you've got less disposable income, you might buy fewer shirts or jeans. But if you need new tennis shoes, you've probably gotta buy a pair - but you might go for Skechers instead of Nike. I thought with $SKX having a great balance sheet and expanding internationally they might pick up market share through a recession. $LEVI dipped hard but seems to be doing well with a good earnings call recently, I'm adding to this position. I'm less sure about $SKX. With the pandemic, demand might not shift the way I expected. I'm being cautious here until we get some more visibility into results in this sector. I need to catch up on the recent Nike quarterly report. $RACE (Ferrari) is well known to everyone. Luxury goods tend to hold up based on brand strength and this company did very well through 2008-09. I also felt that highest-end luxury autos are better positioned to survive the trends toward hybrids and eventual self-driving relative to others in the auto industry, since they sell based on brand strength and driving experience more than efficiency. Ferrari has outperformed every auto company but Tesla, which I'm assured is not actually an auto company. This is despite its only factory being in an incredibly hard-hit area of Italy, so all else equal it should be underperforming the auto sector. This is confounded by Italy's choice to ban shorting, which is suppressing some price discovery, but so far this pick seems to be working out very well. $TTWO is a video game company which has the rights to several key franchises including the 2K Sports games, Civ, and most importantly GTA. My model for video game spending (purely anecdotal) is that as discretionary incomes go down, gamers will cut back by focusing their purchases on a smaller set of games that they love and offer a lot of playability. Some just see the price tags on things like NBA 2K or GTA and assume people will shy away, but I think they'll instead cut back on their impulse buys and focus on the core titles they know they like. 2K Sports and GTA in particular I felt would hold up very well. The 'stay-at-home' nature of this particular crash is clearly helping $TTWO in a way I did not predict at all; my position is slightly green. This is a result I don't think I really get credit for given my reasoning. $ULTA, a beauty retailer, which is an industry that classically holds up well in downturns. $ULTA has a lot of brick-and-mortar exposure but I liked their 'experiential' pitch where they have professionals in store to help customers pick through and try their products. They also have a pristine balance sheet and were in my mind unfairly punished with a big dip from ~$350 to ~$225 earlier in 2019 after a rough quarter. I started my position after this dip. "Come in to our store and have our employees rub stuff on your face" is very clearly not the business model you'd love to be in at this particular moment. However, $ULTA's online business is holding up and I think this company will still do well going forward, though it has taken a big hit to its share price. Long-term I still like $ULTA and have added through the crash. $CVS, another company everybody knows, though not really true consumer discretionary, not sure exactly how to categorize them. Felt that some additional healthcare exposure would be good and durable, and felt the market was punishing them a bit too much for the debt taken on for the Aetna acquisition. Liked that they were making the right noises about paying down this debt in a disciplined fashion going forward. This position is down less than 10% for me but I'm very unsure with how it's going to work out going forward, especially since I think this pandemic is going to increase the chances of significant healthcare reform. This is the business I think I understand the least and may divest from going forward. What have I gotten from all this so far? First of all, I've had a lot of fun. Yeah I'm a total nerd but I actually enjoy reading all these reports, learning new things, and especially using it to slack off from my desk job. So I don't regret the experience, even though I've invested a lot of time to basically match the market's performance so far. Secondly, I've learned that I know nothing. Everything I've learned, all the moderately successful picks, and all the very unsuccessful picks confirm to me at every turn that me attempting to beat the market - at least with my current set of tools and knowledge - is a very foolish endeavor. If I wanted to maximize returns, I should be in a total-market index fund, and probably so should you. I especially would have no chance if I was trying anything more active than my buy-and-hold strategy, like fiddling with options or day trading. Let me know if you have any advice or questions. As I've said, I'm mostly logging this to keep myself honest, but hopefully others will get something out of all this typing.
Good morning from the UK. It’s Friday 24th April. My marigold seeds have taken off and are starting to sprout secondary stage leaves (marigolds are good companion plants; they ward off various pests in a vegetable garden whilst they can also be good sacrificial plants should a slug manage to somehow breach our electric barrier). Meanwhile, the first of my wife’s radishes seeds is starting to emerge from the compost she put in a recycled milk carton tetrapak a few days ago; she’s very excited by this. Advance warning, today’s post is a bit food supply chain heavy. Happy Friday everybody.
Virus news in depth
AP Story from Tuesday 21st April: UN food agency chief: World on brink of `a hunger pandemic’ - The head of the U.N. food agency warned Tuesday that, as the world is dealing with the coronavirus pandemic, it is also “on the brink of a hunger pandemic” that could lead to “multiple famines of biblical proportions” within a few months if immediate action isn’t taken. World Food Program Executive Director David Beasley told the U.N. Security Council that even before COVID-19 became an issue, he was telling world leaders that “2020 would be facing the worst humanitarian crisis since World War II.” That’s because of wars in Syria, Yemen and elsewhere, locust swarms in Africa, frequent natural disasters and economic crises including in Lebanon, Congo, Sudan and Ethiopia, he said. Beasley said today 821 million people go to bed hungry every night all over the world, a further 135 million people are facing “crisis levels of hunger or worse,” and a new World Food Program analysis shows that as a result of COVID-19 an additional 130 million people “could be pushed to the brink of starvation by the end of 2020.” He said in the video briefing that WFP is providing food to nearly 100 million people on any given day, including “about 30 million people who literally depend on us to stay alive.” (Cont’d) Beasley, who is recovering from COVID-19, said if those 30 million people can’t be reached, “our analysis shows that 300,000 people could starve to death every single day over a three-month period” — and that doesn’t include increased starvation due to the coronavirus. “In a worst-case scenario, we could be looking at famine in about three dozen countries, and in fact, in 10 of these countries we already have more than one million people per country who are on the verge of starvation,” he said. According to WFP, the 10 countries with the worst food crises in 2019 were Yemen, Congo, Afghanistan, Venezuela, Ethiopia, South Sudan, Syria, Sudan, Nigeria and Haiti. He pointed to a sharp drop in overseas remittances that will hurt countries such as Haiti, Nepal and Somalia; a loss of tourism revenue which, for example, will damage Ethiopia where it accounts for 47 percent of total exports; and the collapse of oil prices which will have a significant impact in lower-income countries like South Sudan where oil accounts for almost 99 percent of total exports. The Gulf Times takes a different slant on the story: ‘Instead of coronavirus, the hunger will kill us’; COVID-19 brings fears of a global food crisis - In Kibera, the largest slum in Kenya’s capital Nairobi, people desperate to eat set off a stampede during a recent giveaway of flour and cooking oil, leaving scores injured and two people dead. The coronavirus has sometimes been called an equaliser because it has sickened both rich and poor, but when it comes to food, the commonality ends. It is poor people, including large segments of poorer nations, who are now going hungry and facing the prospect of starving. “The coronavirus has been anything but a great equaliser,” said Asha Jaffar, a volunteer who brought food to families in the Nairobi slum of Kibera after the fatal stampede. “It’s been the great revealer, pulling the curtain back on the class divide and exposing how deeply unequal this country is.” Already, 135 million people had been facing acute food shortages, but now with the pandemic, 130 million more could go hungry in 2020, said Arif Husain, chief economist at the World Food Program, a UN agency. Altogether, an estimated 265 million people could be pushed to the brink of starvation by year’s end. “We’ve never seen anything like this before,” Husain said. “It wasn’t a pretty picture to begin with, but this makes it truly unprecedented and uncharted territory.” (Cont’d) There is no shortage of food globally, or mass starvation from the pandemic yet continues the Gulf Times article. But logistical problems in planting, harvesting and transporting food will leave poor countries exposed in the coming months, especially those reliant on imports, said Johan Swinnen, director general of the International Food Policy Research Institute in Washington. While the system of food distribution and retailing in rich nations is organised and automated, he said, systems in developing countries are “labour intensive,” making “these supply chains much more vulnerable to COVID-19 and social distancing regulations.” On a recent evening, hundreds of migrant workers, who have been stuck in New Delhi after a lockdown was imposed in March with little warning, sat under the shade of a bridge waiting for food to arrive. The Delhi government has set up soup kitchens, yet workers like Nihal Singh go hungry as the throngs at these centres have increased in recent days. “Instead of coronavirus, the hunger will kill us,” said Singh, who was hoping to eat his first meal in a day. Coronavirus-driven CO2 shortage threatens US food, water and beer supply, officials say - The Guardian reports that there is an emerging shortage of carbon dioxide gas (CO2) according to a Washington state emergency planning document. The document, a Covid-19 situation report produced by the State Emergency Operations Center (SEOC), contains a warning from the state’s office of drinking water (ODW) about difficulties in obtaining CO2, which is essential for the process of water treatment. The document says that the ODW is “still responding to [that day’s] notification of a national shortage of CO2”. It continues: “Several [water plants] had received initial notification from their vendors that their supply would be restricted to 33% of normal.” It further warns: “So far utilities have been able to make the case that they are considered essential to critical infrastructure and have been returned to full supply. However, we want to ask if CISA [the US Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency] can assess this through their contacts, if this is sustainable given the national shortage.” (Cont’d) Asked to clarify the nature of this problem, ODW director Mike Means said in an email that his agency had first learned of potential problems when Seattle public utilities were “contacted by their vendor Airgas who supplied a copy of a Force Majeure notice”, warning them that their CO2 order would be reduced due to pandemic-related shortages. Force majeure is a contractual defense that allows parties to escape liability for contracts in the case of events – such as a pandemic – that could not be reasonably foreseen. In this case, Means wrote, “Airgas informed in their notice that they would only be able to do 80% of their normal service but subsequent discussions said to expect more like 33%”. At this point, he added, “we reached out to understand if this was a WA specific problem or national. We quickly understood it to be a national issue.” (Cont’d) ODW had then contacted federal agencies such as CISA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (Fema) and industry bodies such as the Association of State Drinking Water Authorities (ASDWA). The main reason for national shortages, according to the CEO of the Compressed Gas Association (CGA), Rich Gottwald, is a ramping down of ethanol production. “Back in the summertime, the [Trump] administration exempted some gasoline manufacturers from using ethanol. Then we had Russia and Saudi Arabia flooding the market with cheap gasoline. All of that led to an oversupply of ethanol,” Gottwald said. “As ethanol manufacturers were ramping down because there wasn’t a market for their product, along comes Covid-19, which meant people weren’t driving anywhere”, he added. This led to plant closures, including among the 50 specialized plants that collect CO2 for the food and beverage market. Gottwald’s association, along with a number of associations representing food and beverage industries, which together use 77% of food-grade CO2, issued a joint warning to the federal government about the shortage. In an open letter to the vice-president, Mike Pence, the coalition warns: “Preliminary data show that production of CO2 has decreased by approximately 20%, and experts predict that CO2 production may be reduced by 50% by mid-April.” It continues: “A shortage in CO2 would impact the US availability of fresh food, preserved food and beverages, including beer production.” The 'land army' needed to keep the UK's food supply chain going as thousands of tonnes of food risks going to waste - ITV has done a piece on the UK farming supply chain. Farmers are desperate for help. Without their usual influx of migrant workers from the EU, thousands of tonnes of food risk going to waste in fields up and down the country, just as the summer crops come into season. Every year our farming industry needs 90,000 seasonal workers. Like Robyn, many have put themselves forward - but in no way near the numbers needed. Others are finding the application process hard to navigate. Mark Thorogood, whose family have run the Essex farm for three generations, says it’s a perilous time for the food supply chain. "If we can't get the labour – it doesn’t get picked. That’s the crux of it", he said. Meanwhile, the charity The Food Foundation claims more than one and a half million Britons are going without food for at least a day because of the pandemic and three million have experienced hunger since the lockdown. On top of all that - the reality that nearly 50% of our food comes from abroad. With the numbers of ships crossing the Channel reduced and port workers hit by the virus, this is now under threat too. So could this crisis see a permanent change in how we feed our nation? The country's leading voice on food security, Professor Tim Lang gave us a grave warning: "The entire world food system is being disrupted. More disruptions are coming. Plantings not happening, food being wasted. "Britain only produces about 50% of its food - the country that can only half feed itself has got to wake up". (Personal note: this is why I’m putting effort into growing veg)
New Zealand: People are being urged not to relax alert level 4 restrictions over Anzac weekend. The country will move to level 3 at 11.59pm on Monday but police say they will continue to enforce the current restrictions until then. They say officers will be visible on the roads, with checkpoints operating at holiday hot spots. (Personal note: It’s the local equivalent of memorial weekend there with NZ and parts of Australia enjoying Monday as a public holiday). Level 3 restrictions mean organised sports are still not allowed outside the home bubble, including playing frisbee or kicking a rugby ball around. Playgrounds and public sports facilities are still off limits, and physical distancing is still required when exercising outside. Sports such as golf, tennis, and bowls, where two metres of distancing is possible can be played, and mountain biking on known trails is permitted for experienced bikers.
Three southern Sydney beaches closed for a second time, only five days after being reopened, according to a statement from the Randwick City Council. The beaches of Clovelly, Coogee and Maroubra were shut at 1pm Friday after “people failed to use beaches for exercise only.” The three beaches will reopen Saturday and Sunday between 6am to 9am for exercise only, according to the council. The situation will be reassessed on Monday.
Results of a new survey from C+R Research shows that 60 percent of American shoppers are “now fearful” to shop at grocery stores, with 73 percent saying they are shopping less at physical stores says The Spoon. Not surprisingly, C+R’s survey also found that grocery delivery has shot up 3.5x during the pandemic. Whereas consumers used to take an average of 2.3 weekly trips to the grocery store before the COVID-19 outbreak, they now average 1 trip a week.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has criticized China previously for its handling of coronavirus, but tonight he was clearer than ever, saying, "China caused an enormous amount of pain, loss of life, and now a huge challenge for the global economy and the American economy as well by not sharing the information they had." Pompeo, appearing on Sean Hannity’s show on Fox, added, "I am very confident that the Chinese Communist Party will pay a price for what they did here, certainly from the United States."
Inevitably, left leaning media sources such as The Guardian have attacked President Trump for his suggestion yesterday of injecting disinfectant to cure the virus. At Thursday’s White House coronavirus task force briefing, the US president discussed new government research on how the virus reacts to different temperatures, climates and surfaces. “And then I see the disinfectant where it knocks it out in a minute,” Trump said. “One minute! And is there a way we can do something, by an injection inside or almost a cleaning? Because you see it gets in the lungs and it does a tremendous number on the lungs, so it’d be interesting to check that. So, that you’re going to have to use medical doctors with, but it sounds interesting to me.” Dr Deborah Birx, the task force response coordinator, remained silent. But social media erupted in hilarity and outrage at the president, who has a record of defying science and also floated the idea of treating patients’ bodies with ultraviolet (UV) light. (Personal note: already I’ve seen several memes on the topic).
Germany’s coronavirus reproduction rate has increased to 0.9 according to the country's centre for disease and control, the Robert Koch Institute, meaning every 10 people with the virus infect an average of nine others. That’s up from a reproduction rate of 0.7 a week ago, according to the Institute’s Vice President Lars Schaade. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has previously warned that if the number -- also known as the R0 value -- rises above 1, the country’s health system would eventually be overwhelmed. Yesterday she expressed concern that some German states were moving to ease coronavirus restrictions too soon, saying it could undermine the results that have been achieved.
The British prime minister is recovering at his countryside retreat, but there's no decision yet on when he will return to work, Health Secretary Matt Hancock told Sky News.
It's the first day of the holy month of Ramadan for Muslims; in Indonesia, millions can't travel home as is custom due to travel bans, and in Malaysia, the national lockdown has been extended through early May. Meanwhile, Muslims in India are facing discrimination, attacks, and being blamed for spreading the virus. An infection cluster was identified at a Muslim group's event last month, heightening public fear and Islamophobia.
Police in the United Arab Emirates are deploying smart helmets that can scan the temperatures of hundreds of people every minute in their effort to combat the new coronavirus. The helmets, which need less time and less contact than traditional thermometers, can measure temperatures from five metres (16ft) away and scan up to 200 people a minute, triggering an alert if a fever is detected. Chinese company KC Wearable says it has sold more than 1,000 of the temperature-scanning helmets and has received orders from the Middle East, Europe and Asia.
Supply chain news in depth
Hidden threat: Japan only has a 2-week stockpile of LNG (Liquid Natural Gas) - If supplies stop, it will cause major power supply problems in the country says Nikkei’s Asian review which has an article highlighting the continuing energy supply chain vulnerability in Japan ever since the Fukushima nuclear disaster. It takes about one month to ship LNG from the Middle East to Japan explains the article but if the coronavirus outbreak prevents ships from docking in Japan it could have a big impact on the country's power supply. The physical properties of LNG mean it is poorly suited for long-term storage hence the country only holding a two-week stockpile. Despite this, the country depends on the fuel for 40% of its electric power generation needs, and all of the LNG it uses is imported from the Middle East and Southeast Asia. Tokyo Bay, which stretches across the prefectures of Chiba, Tokyo and Kanagawa, is Japan's most important LNG power generation hub. JERA operates many of the power plants there, all of which run on LNG. Accounting for about 30% of Japan's total LNG power generation, these plants produce 26 million kilowatts of electricity. If, for instance, the coronavirus was to force these plants to stop, the Greater Tokyo area would immediately lose its power supply (Personal note: that’s a population of approx 38.5m people). (Cont’d) Today, LNG is a pillar of Japan's electricity. Before the March 11, 2011, earthquake and tsunami in Japan, LNG made up 28% of the country's power generation. That increased to 40% in fiscal 2017 as the nation's nuclear power plants went off grid, one after the other, following the Fukushima nuclear crisis. While some of Japan's nuclear plants have come back online, based on the strictest standards in the world, only three of the 10 electric power companies have been able to do so. Moreover, the coronavirus is inching closer and closer to the nuclear plants. Recently, a contractor working at the Genkai Nuclear Power Plant in the southern prefecture of Saga tested positive for the virus and construction at the site was stopped temporarily. Japan has traditionally tried to maintain a diverse mixture of power sources -- including nuclear, LNG, fossil fuels and renewable energy -- due to its reliance on imports as an island nation. "It is highly unbalanced to depend close to half of our energy on LNG alone," an official at the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry concedes. With shipments arriving constantly, a few missed shipments will not immediately signal a crisis. But an extended cutoff will spell trouble for the country. (Cont’d) Japan was already facing a power shortage this year, "so the timing is very bad," said a power industry source. The Sendai nuclear power plant in Kagoshima Prefecture was shut down last month because it failed to meet antiterrorism standards. The No. 3 reactor at the Ikata nuclear power plant in Ehime Prefecture is offline following a court injunction. The number of nuclear reactors in operation this year is expected to temporarily fall by half from nine, so Japan cannot rely heavily on nuclear power. Japan's energy self-sufficiency stands at about 10%, well below the 40% for food. The movement to shift away from carbon has led to a backlash against domestic coal-fired power plants, so dependence on LNG could rise further. One reason that Tokyo Electric is rushing to restart its Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear plant in Niigata Prefecture is because "heavy concentration in LNG power in Tokyo Bay is a major risk to the stable supply of power," according to an official at the utility. The coronavirus pandemic is testing whether Japan's government and utilities can diversify energy sources to prepare against the risks that threaten supplies. USA meat packing plant Covid-19 problems worse than originally thought - A rash of coronavirus outbreaks at dozens of meatpacking plants across the nation is far more extensive than previously thought, according to an exclusive review of cases by USA TODAY and the Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting. More than 150 of America’s largest meat processing plants operate in counties where the rate of coronavirus infection is already among the nation’s highest, based on the media outlets’ analysis of slaughterhouse locations and county-level COVID-19 infection rates. These facilities represent more than 1 in 3 of the nation’s biggest beef, pork and poultry processing plants. Rates of infection around these plants are higher than those of 75% of other U.S. counties, the analysis found. (Cont’d) While experts say the industry has thus far maintained sufficient production despite infections in at least 2,200 workers at 48 plants, there are fears that the number of cases could continue to rise and that meatpacking plants will become the next disaster zones. "Initially our concern was long-term care facilities," said Gary Anthone, Nebraska's chief medical officer, in a Facebook Live video Sunday. “If there's one thing that might keep me up at night, it's the meat processing plants and the manufacturing plants." Factory workers, unions, and even managers say the federal government – including the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration – has done little more than issue non-enforceable guidance. On its website, for example, the CDC has released safety guidelines for critical workers and businesses, which primarily promote common-sense measures of sanitization and personal distancing. USA Today says that state health departments have also taken a backseat role in all but a few places. There’s more in the article here.
Supply chain news in brief
Supply chain dive gives a glimpse into the soaring demand for PPE during the pandemic. Numbers from group purchasing organization Premier and data software company ESO show the supply chain gaps in getting needed personal protective equipment (PPE) to those on the front lines. Data on increasing orders of PPE in the hospital setting and the arc of COVID-19 calls compared to a typical flu season show the pandemic in a new light. Healthcare procurement departments and group buying organizations track purchases as part of business. When a spike in usage occurs, it helps them understand their needs and project what will happen. "Dealing with COVID, we’re using five to seven times more PPE than with the traditional patient," Michael Alkire, president of Premier (a group purchasing organisation), told Supply Chain Dive. Typically, Premier purchases 22 million to 24 million N95 respirators per year for its members, including about 4,000 hospitals and 175,000 nonacute healthcare providers and organizations. In January and February, before the virus was spreading rapidly in the U.S., Premier’s members used 56 million respirators.In late March, Premier's systems were ordering 110 million to 150 million respirators, Alkire stated in an Alliance for Health Policy webinar. According to a March Premier survey of its hospitals, 23% of respondents had less than a 10-day supply in inventory. The number of SKUs (SKU = Single Keeping Unit, think of it as a unique product code) on allocation, meaning ordering is restricted due to a shortage, has also skyrocketed. On March 23, 2,600 unique SKUs were on national allocation, Alkire said. By April 1, that number had risen to 9,200. PPE categories can have multiple SKUs. The N95 respirator could have 50 SKUs, including various sizes and colors.
The Singapore Times reports that small businesses in Thailand’s food manufacturing and wholesale trade industries have been encouraged to buy and sell across regional borders, with the help of a new online channel. Thaitrade.com, an e-commerce portal run by the country’s Department of International Trade Promotion, teamed up with a Singapore-based firm to raise the profile of selected Thai brands. The partnership with business-to-business wholesale food platform OctoRocket, which is partly owned by Business Times publisher Singapore Press Holdings (SPH), aims to help Thai food manufacturers export their wares. Food suppliers in Thailand can also tap the new channel to connect with regional counterparts and source products from the rest of South-east Asia for Thai consumers.
A billion kilos of French fries but nobody wants them anymore; NRC.nl reports (link, in dutch) that the demand for French fries has collapsed now that the catering industry is closed due to the coronavirus meaning growers across the Netherlands are left with full sheds. The Netherlands is one of the largest chip potato producers in Europe the article explains, clarifying that the potatoes mainly end up in restaurants, cafes, canteens and fast-food chains, but catering has been largely closed worldwide since the outbreak of the corona virus. 1.5 million tons of Dutch fries potatoes remain from the 2019 harvest. Two-thirds of this is unsaleable, the potato sector estimates. It works out at around sixty kilos per inhabitant of the Netherlands. André Hoogendijk, director of branch organization BO Akkerbouw, says that the Dutch potato sector does not quickly ask for help and until recently the sector had been buoyant but this week, the potato sector held a crisis meeting with Minister Carola Schouten of Agriculture (ChristenUnie). According to Hoogendijk, the minister accepts the severity of the problem and economic need but no concrete commitments have yet been made. "We hope for financial compensation" he says.
The major US grocery chain Publix has committed to buying surplus milk and food that would normally go to schools, catering companies and restaurants and will donate it to America’s food banks according to Business Insider. The effort is intended to help both farmers who have had to discard unsold product and the growing number of Americans facing food insecurity. It expects to donate more than 150,000 pounds (circa 68 tonnes) of produce and 43,500 gallons of milk (approx 165,000 litres) in the first week of the initiative.
Major US supermarket chain Krogers has told ABC that America’s food supply is stabilizing, but it will be up to consumers to keep the supply for some hot-button items in check, Kroger CEO Rodney McMullen said in an exclusive with "Good Morning America." “I was in the store last night — we had toilet paper, plenty of meat variety products: beef, pork, chicken, all those things,” McMullen, CEO of America’s second-largest general retailer, said. “As for hand sanitizer, I think it is going to take a little bit longer.” The sentiment from Kroger’s CEO has been echoed by Wegmans (another supermarket chain in the US, predominantly in the NE of the country). “While the unexpected increase in demand has challenged the supply chain, we’re seeing it start to equal out,” said Laura Camera, a Wegmans spokesperson. “We are confident it will stabilize as long as we prioritize our needs.”
Manufacturing activity in the UK has slumped to record lows says the Chartered Institute of Procurement and Supply (link). Widespread business shutdowns at home and abroad in response to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic unsurprisingly resulted in a rapid reduction in UK private sector output during April. The latest IHS Markit/ CIPS Flash UK Composite PMI® (Purchasing Management Index) signalled by far the fastest decline in business activity since comparable figures were first compiled over two decades ago. At 12.9 in April, down from 36.0 in March, the seasonally adjusted IHS Markit / CIPS Flash UK Composite Output Index – which is based on approximately 85% of usual monthly replies – indicated that the combined monthly decline in manufacturing and services activity exceeded the downturn seen at the height of the global financial crisis by a wide margin. Prior to March, the survey-record low was 38.1 in November 2008. (Personal note: The PMI is based on five major survey areas: new orders, inventory levels, production, supplier deliveries, and employment. The ISM weighs each of these survey areas equally. The surveys include questions about business conditions and any changes, whether it be improving, no changes, or deteriorating. The headline PMI is a number from 0 to 100. A PMI above 50 represents an expansion when compared with the previous month. A PMI reading under 50 represents a contraction, and a reading at 50 indicates no change).
Air New Zealand announced it will not resume operation of its suspended Auckland-Buenos Aires and Los Angeles-London routes due to the deep impact of Covid-19 on forward travel demand. The airline has also taken the decision to postpone the commencement of its non-stop Auckland-New York service from 29 October 2020 until late 2021 at the earliest. Along with 95 percent of its international flying, Air New Zealand's Buenos Aires and Los Angeles-London routes are currently suspended through to 30 June due to government travel bans and low demand. Last year, the airline announced its plan to exit the Los Angeles-London route in October 2020 and in March brought forward the closure of its London cabin crew base.
Meet the 12-year-old who rode 36 hours on Zwift alongside Geraint Thomas - The Tour De France winner and double Olympic gold medalist earlier this week did 3 12 hour cycling sessions to raise money for the UK’s NHS (National Health Service), eventually earning £350,000. Alongside him rode a 12 year old Mak Larkin who by the end of the 36 hours of cycling had managed to cycle 740km (460 miles). Proud mum Lynsey told Cycling Weekly: “Lockdown was really getting to Mak, being that he was so eager to race this season as it was his first year at national level road and mountain bike cross country. “He saw Geraint’s 36-hour challenge and told us he wanted to do some of it with him for something to do and to support the NHS. He then told us a few hours later that he wanted to do the full challenge and wanted to raise some money himself. At time of writing his fundraising page (also for the NHS) stands at £5,772 (approx €6,605 or $7,111 USD). Cycling weekly has more here. A toddler has been able to hear for the first time after a groundbreaking remote switch-on of her cochlear implants - The BBC reports that audiologists in Southampton activated the devices for 18-month-old Margarida Cibrao-Roque via the internet as they are unable to see patients in person due to Covid-19 measures. Professor Helen Cullington said the procedure took "technical creativity". Margarida's father said it had "opened a big window" for his daughter. Margarida, who has been deaf since birth because she has Ushers Syndrome Type One, had received her cochlear implants in an earlier operation. Staff at the University of Southampton's Auditory Implant Service (USAIS) used specialist software and were able to monitor progress via videolink to the family's home in Camberley, Surrey. During the switch-on levels of electrical stimulation were gradually built up and Margarida's responses were constantly monitored. It is hoped her new cochlear implants will, over time, help her to hear and to communicate more easily. Margarida's mother, Joana Cibrao said the team were "just brilliant and made it happen" despite the lockdown restrictions. "The possibility of Margarida calling me mummy one day would mean the world," she said.
CMV: There is nothing liberal about the European Union and liberals shouldn't waste their time defending it
The European Union and also continued membership of the EU by the UK has had widespread support from left liberals throughout the English-speaking world. I believe the EU is a tremendous institution and I believe it is good for Europe and was good for the UK and it will make the UK marginally less wealthy over time to leave the EU. But the EU seems to have widespread support, not just for these things, but out of some vague sense of cosmopolitanism or a spirit of international cooperation. It's there I think the EU doesn't live up to the hype. Dominic Cummings, an influential, shadowy figure in UK politics, has argued that EU trade rules go far beyond reducing tariffs between countries to liberalise trade. He says EU rules also work to exclude other countries from July trading within the EU by enforcing tariffs outside the bloc. Some nations, including the UK, might want to run a trade policy that is more liberal than is possible from inside the EU. If the EU were committed to open, liberal cosmopolitanism, it would break down barriers within the EU but also not stand in the way of its member states developing more liberal relationships with other countries. In New Zealand and Australia to a lesser degree we have felt the full brunt of this. Favourable agricultural trade relationships with the UK supported a strong agricultural industry here which helped make our countries prosperous. These had to be given up when the UK entered the EU. The adjustment was economically difficult in the short term and has produced dependence on China for an export market in the 21st century. I anticipate replies that NZ and Australia are pretty insignificant in the grand scheme of things and that overall the EU has been very good at breaking down barriers within Europe. That has been great for Europe. But if your liberalization agenda is limited to one continent, it doesn't seem very consistently liberal - it's more of a kind of new expanded nationalism, albeit expanding the concept of nation to be a large continent-sized quasi nation. This is not really a utilitarian argument - more an argument that on principle, the EU has demonstrated its realpolitik and much like the US, it only supports wider openness within the confines of its own very narrowly defined and short term interests. EU protectionism has probably hurt lots of other countries throughout the world - I just happen to know more about my corner of it. The EU has been good for Europe, but the EU's goals of liberalising Europe have largely been achieved. I don't believe its current direction fits within a liberal, internationalist agenda, and people committed to those values should not waste time fighting for the EU or lose too much sleep over the UK leaving it.
54 Years since France detonated nukes on Moruroa after we fought for them in WW1 & against Nazism in WW2, & suffered in their colonial invasions of Vietnam - Europe & their Colonial States still excuse their criminal 'tests' on our tupuna Moananui. Scumbag USA President Trump mulls more crimes.
https://twitter.com/PeaceMovementA/status/1278501718733406208 " Moruroa: 54th anniversary of first nuclear bomb detonation On July 2, 1966 the calm of French Polynesia's Moruroa atoll was shattered by an explosion of unbelievable force. Within a second, the azure tropical sky flashed bright orange, and was ruptured by a towering radioactive cloud that mushroomed into the atmosphere; the placid lagoon was stirred into a tempestuous cauldron, while the coconut trees on the white sand islets were bent by the sheer force of the nuclear explosion. "It's beautiful", said President Charles de Gaulle.” Today is the 54th anniversary of France’s first nuclear bomb detonation in French Occupied Polynesia, the first in a total of 193 bomb “tests” at Mororua and Fangataufa from 1966 to 1996 which left a toxic radioactive legacy that continues to cause immense harm to the health and wellbeing of Tahitians and other Pacific peoples, and threatens the future of the Pacific ocean." "https://www.justsecurity.org/70976/as-trump-mulls-new-us-nuclear-tests-we-can-learn-from-a-small-countrys-resistance-to-the-bomb/ As Trump Mulls New US Nuclear Tests, We Can Learn from a “Small” Country’s Resistance to the Bomb
June 25, 2020 The Trump administration is reportedly considering restarting U.S. nuclear weapons testing for the first time since 1992. If President Donald Trump proceeds down this path, the United States would be the first, other than North Korea, to flout the global norm against nuclear test detonations in 22 years. Is it possible to stop a superpower from exploding a nuclear bomb? The story of Cook Islands, a “small” country in the Pacific, suggests people at the margins of global politics have unexpected agency. Between 1946 and 1996, the United States, the United Kingdom, and France conducted 318 nuclear test explosions in the Pacific region: in Australia, Kiribati, the Marshall Islands, French Polynesia (or Maohi Nui as it is known by supporters of its independence), Johnston Atoll (a U.S. territory) and Amchitka island in Alaska. The governments conducting the tests stereotyped the Pacific as a remote space ripe for experimentation, with people living there depicted as “few” and “uncivilized.” The nuclear detonations had catastrophic humanitarian and environmental consequences. With global attention understandably focused on stopping COVID-19, preventing new nuclear tests can seem like an irrelevant, retro concern. Despite concerted opposition from arms control experts, Trump has already turned his back on the Iran nuclear deal, the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, the Arms Trade Treaty, and previous administrations’ restrictions on landmines. How do progressive activists find agency facing a nuclear weapons complex backed by the most powerful militaries in the world? Answers may lie in the history of the struggle against nuclear testing and the remarkable story of Cook Islanders’ resistance to the Bomb. A “Small” Country Bans the Bomb Cook Islands was among the first countries to join the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) in September 2018. Adopted by 122 governments at the United Nations the previous year, the TPNW will – when it enters into force – comprehensively outlaw nuclear weapons among its members and establish a framework for assisting communities affected by use and testing. The Treaty’s supporters – including the Cook Islands government – aim to stigmatize the only weapon of mass destruction not yet banned by international law. The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) was awarded the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize for “its ground-breaking efforts to achieve” the TPNW and “draw attention to the catastrophic humanitarian consequences” of nuclear weapons. Cook Islands was not a site of nuclear testing. However, it was downwind from the U.K. and U.S. detonations at Christmas (now Kiritimati) and Malden islands in Kiribati from 1957 to 1963; and, in certain weather conditions, the French test sites at Moruroa and Fangataufa atolls from 1966 to 1996. Cynics were quick to sneer at Cook Islands joining the Treaty. Why would the United States or Russia care what a small island State thought about their arsenals? The nine nuclear-armed countries, along with their allies, boycotted the TPNW negotiations. What difference would the Treaty make? Echoing colonial condescension, commentators questioned whether Cook Islands even “counts” as a State in international law (factcheck: They do). But Cook Islands has played an outsized and rarely acknowledged role resisting big military powers’ use of the Pacific as a “nuclear playground.” Since gaining self-governance in 1965, key aims of Cook Islands’ foreign policy have been achieved: the Pacific is a nuclear weapons free zone; the U.K., the U.S., and France stopped their nuclear tests; the UN has adopted a nuclear ban treaty; and there is growing pressure to help nuclear test victims and remediate contaminated environments. Cook Islanders achieved these successes not by force – they have no military – but rather through diplomacy, international law, and connections with global activist networks. If we define power as the ability to shape the world according to one’s interests and values, Cook Islanders have been unexpectedly powerful. (See Epeli Hau’ofa’s analysis of how outsiders underestimate the power of “small” Pacific states, here and here). Downwind and Under Colonial Control A year before the U.K. tests in Kiribati commenced, traditional leaders of Cook Islands on the capital island of Rarotonga composed a report highlighting the potential risks. But, under New Zealand’s colonial control, Cook Islanders struggled to convey concerns to those in power. New Zealand allowed the U.K. to set up a monitoring station at Tongareva/Penrhyn, Cook Islands’ most northern island, 750 miles from Kiritimati. New Zealand naval personnel played a supporting role in the U.K. test program. Tauariki Meyer, who grew up on Rakahanga Atoll (850 miles from Kiritimati), later wrote that in 1957, when she was 10 years old, British and New Zealand naval personnel visited the island to inform them “not to drink any water from our wells or roof tanks nor to eat any vegetation, crops or fish for at least three months.” No alternative food supplies were offered. Playing hide and seek one day, she saw a “flash of light brighter than the sun. Shortly after the ground shook. … That evening the whole sky turned red [and] it stayed like that for about a week. … A few days after the blast our lagoon changed colour and all of the fish died floated to the surface….” Meyer’s campaign for compensation from the British government for the health problems she attributed to fallout was unsuccessful. Dr. Terepa’i Maoate, later Cook Islands’ prime minister, also reported seeing a flash while on Manihiki Island (900 miles from Kiritimati) during the period of the U.K. tests. He told a 2008 research conference “that he’d treated fatal cases of diarrhea and vomiting, and seen people with enlarged thyroids” but that no one at the time “made any connection to nuclear testing.” In the run up to its first Pacific atmospheric nuclear test, on Sept. 11, 1966, the French government asserted that “not a single particle of radioactive fallout will ever reach an inhabited island.” This did not reassure the Cook Islands Legislative Assembly, which passed a resolution noting the “practicable impossibility of preventing fallout” and describing the proposed tests as a “serious menace to health and security in the South Pacific.” As they prepared to explode the 120-kiloton device from a tethered balloon 600 meters in the air, French officials realized that winds were blowing toward populated islands. Since President Charles de Gaulle had travelled to French Polynesia to witness the test, they detonated it anyway. Over the following days, and throughout the French atmospheric tests, fallout was detected in Cook Islands by a monitoring network operated by the New Zealand National Radiation Laboratory (NRL). NRL repeatedly stated that low-level exposure to ionizing radiation from fallout in the South Pacific “constituted no public health hazard.” But the most recent and comprehensive review of the scientific literature has confirmed that there is no threshold below which radiation is safe. There is always an effect, even if small, on the overall cancer rate. A 1993 NRL report distanced itself from its earlier certainty, estimating a radiation dose from fallout that, according to the most widely used scientific model, would increase the cancer rate by about 1.1 per 10,000 people alive in the South Pacific during the period of atmospheric testing. Independent Diplomatic Action Cook Islands gained self-government from New Zealand in 1965 and has an unusual political status in the international system. Although a self-governing country with an elected government under a Westminster system, a constitution and the Queen of England as its head of State, it has residents but no citizens. All native Cook Islanders are also residents of New Zealand and can freely travel and reside in both countries. Foreign affairs and defense are responsibilities of the Queen, after consultation by the prime minster of New Zealand with the prime minister of the Cook Islands. In the decades since self-rule began, the Cook Islands has become increasingly assertive in pursuing its own foreign policy. While not a U.N. member, Cook Islands can join U.N. treaties and is a full member of regional intergovernmental institutions. Increased independence enabled Cook Islanders to express their concerns about the effects of Pacific atmospheric testing. Sir Albert Henry, Cook Islands’ first prime minister, had participated in anti-nuclear politics in New Zealand. Among his first acts in power was to deny flights associated with the French test program permission to overfly Cook Islands’ territory. The following year he refused to allow a dance team from the island of Aitutaki to participate in Bastille Day celebrations in French Polynesia. In 1965, Cook Islands proposed a resolution at the South Pacific Commission, calling on France to consider the impact nuclear testing would have on people in the region. The colonial powers refused to allow the Commission, a regional body coordinating economic and social policy, to discuss “political” issues and so the Cook Islands resolution was ruled out of order. “We are…a small country,” said Sir Albert, but “we are the closest to the French islands where the tests are to take place. … [I]f anyone has the right to speak out, then surely it is the Cook Islanders.” Unwilling to let their voice be stifled, Cook Islands proposed to Fiji, Tonga, and Samoa – the three fully independent Pacific island States – a new regional body that would allow the discussion of political issues. The first communique of this South Pacific Forum (now the Pacific Islands Forum) in 1971 raised concerns about French nuclear testing. Forum members then sponsored a U.N. General Assembly Resolution), passed in 1972, urging an end to French nuclear tests. Growing opposition to French tests was also expressed in major sea-borne demonstrations off Moruroa. Greenpeace boats sailed into the test zone, violently repelled by French security forces. The New Zealand government sent two frigates, the HMNZS Canterbury and the HMNZS Otago to register its protest. Australia and New Zealand (acting also on Cook Islands’ behalf) filed a case against France with the International Court of Justice in 1973, seeking to end atmospheric tests. Fiji also joined the suit. The judges’ preliminary ruling ordered the French government to “avoid nuclear tests causing the deposit of radioactive fall-out” on South Pacific countries. The Court declined to make a more comprehensive ruling when France stopped atmospheric testing in late 1974. When France announced that it would move tests underground, the Cook Islands government joined a joint diplomatic note expressing “fundamental opposition to all nuclear testing.” The government worried about accidents at the French test sites, as well as the risk of nuclear war in the region. In 1985, Pacific States met in Cook Islands to sign the Treaty of Rarotonga establishing the South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone. The Treaty banned the “possession, manufacture, acquisition and testing” of nuclear weapons and the dumping of radioactive waste at sea anywhere in the Zone. Nevertheless, there were loopholes in the Treaty of Rarotonga that allowed nuclear submarines to traffic Pacific waters. While the Soviet Union and China ratified their relevant protocols in 1988, France, the U.K., and the U.S. did not sign until 1996. The U.S. still has not yet ratified, though then-President Barack Obama presented them to the Senate in 2011. Global Connections and Mass Protest Before the 1980s, most Cook Islanders were cut off from the international news media and knew little about regional debates on nuclear weapons. Many Cook Islanders also have close family, cultural, and social connections to French Polynesia, where the test program made enormous public investments, which muted their opposition. Even as he signed the Nuclear Free Zone Treaty, then-Prime Minister Sir Thomas Davis, chided New Zealand for closing ports to nuclear-armed U.S. ships. Davis, who had lived in America and worked for NASA, said the U.S. Navy were welcome in Cook Islands. There was little political action against the tests outside official circles and a few left-wing expatriates. Cook Islanders views changed as they became more connected with the world. Many travelled to New Zealand, where the nuclear issue was front-page news following the 1985 French bombing of the Greenpeace ship Rainbow Warrior in Auckland Harbor. Greenpeace protest vessels stopped in Rarotonga, welcomed by the government, drawing admiring crowds. By contrast, visiting French military personnel were met with verbal abuse from passersby. Meanwhile, the Nuclear Free and Independent Pacific (NFIP) movement mobilized people at the grassroots. Backed by churches, trade unions, intellectuals, and NGOs, they amplified regional attention to the humanitarian and environmental consequences of nuclear weapons. The French test program created stark economic inequalities and social problems, particularly in Fa’a’a, a working class suburb of French Polynesia’s capital Papeete, Tahiti. Test site workers and their families, concentrated in Fa’a’a, began to speak about their health concerns to political and religious leaders. In 1983, NFIP activist Oscar Temaru was elected mayor of Fa’a’a, which he declared a “Nuclear Free City.” Temaru has family connections and friends in Cook Islands and sought their support. When newly elected French President Jacques Chirac announced he would restart underground testing in 1995, ending a three-year moratorium, he ignited unprecedented indignation across the Pacific. Cook Islanders felt deeply afraid, both for themselves and their “cousins” in French Polynesia. Churches prayed for the tests to be cancelled. Children made anti-nuclear art in school. Medical professionals raised concerns about the effects of radiation. “We are defenseless against this outrage. The whole thing is just so bloody frightening. They will poison our seas,” businessman Ross Hunter told The Observer. Cook Islands’ then-Minister of Agriculture and Conservation Vaine Tairea reported that older people were “refusing to eat fish caught on the eastern side of the islands – the side facing Mururoa.” Cook Islands News, now a full newspaper, reported on the planned French tests in almost every issue. The prime minister, Sir Geoffrey Henry, sent a letter to the French government expressing “fervent hope” that it would “cease its testing programme at the earliest moment.” French claims that their nuclear tests were contamination-free were “an insult to our intelligence,” said Henry. These days, flipflops and plastic water bottles from French Polynesia end up on Cook Islands’ shores in Ngaputoru. We all live “in a single global environment,” he said. “All of humanity lives down current and down wind – we are all exposed, the amount is only a matter of degree.” But Henry’s rhetoric was less confrontational than other regional leaders. Henry refused calls for Cook Islands to boycott the 1995 South Pacific Games in Tahiti. And he welcomed a visit to Rarotonga from president of French Polynesia, Gaston Flosse. As a result, many Cook Islanders felt they could not rely on the government to express their indignation. Henry should “come out of his cocoon and take a much stronger stand,” said Dr. Terepa’i Maoate, then leader of an opposition party: “regardless of our small size, we cannot and should not continue to sit on the fence….” When opposition politicians organized a demonstration against the tests, Henry pivoted, perhaps seeking distraction from a government finance crisis. In a full-page ad in the Cook Islands News he invited all people “to march for Peace and a Nuclear Free Pacific” and express support for Greenpeace’s Rainbow Warrior II, then in Avarua harbor. On June 23, 1995, more than 1,000 people (around 5 percent of the population) marched in the country’s largest ever political demonstration. “We are here to protest against nuclear testing for the future generations,” a grandmother told the newspaper. Two days later, a delegation calling themselves Ipukarea-i-o-Kiva (Pacific Home) headed to Tahiti to show support for Oscar Temaru and local anti-nuclear activists. “Let the women and children of the Cook Islands convince the people of Tahiti” that they could not accept the “murderous” French tests in “silence,” said the group’s leader and former Miss Cook Islands, June Baudinet. Some Cook Islanders felt France’s intransigence required a more militant response. When Gaston Flosse visited Rarotonga on 7 August, 500 protestors met him at the airport. Felix Enoka, a Cook Islands champion body builder, was among them, having already joined a boycott of the upcoming South Pacific Games in Tahiti. Preparing for Flosse’s visit, Enoka and three friends hung a gigantic banner with the slogan “Nuclear Free” on Maungatea. Other activists collected tomatoes in an unsuccessful plot to give Flosse a pelting. 📷
Cook Islanders aboard a vaka (traditional canoe), perform a traditional chant in protest against French Pacific nuclear tests, just outside the 12-mile exclusion zone around the test site Moruroa, August 30, 1995. Photo: Steve Morgan, used with permission.
Cook Islanders also literally took their protest to the waves. As part of a pan-Pacific movement to celebrate the heritage of Polynesian seafaring, the Cook Islands government had been sponsoring cultural voyages of a vaka (traditional double-hulled canoe), the 72-foot Te-Au-O-Tonga. A Vaka ki Moruroa (Vaka to Moruroa) campaign persuaded the government to support sending Te-Au-O-Tonga to join the Greenpeace protest flotilla headed to Moruroa. “We are sending the vaka not because it’s aggressive or a threat to France,” said Brian Mason of the Vaka ki Moruroa committee, but rather “because it’s so utterly harmless and vulnerable.” Cook Islands News described it as “something of a David and Goliath situation.” The crew faced strong winds and turbulent waters and agauntlet of French battleships and military aircraft; they reluctantly accepted being towed much of the way by their escort patrol boat, Te Kukupa. But by August 30, the two vessels reached the 12-kilometer limit of territorial waters off Moruroa. Drawing intense international news coverage, the crew of the Te-Au-O-Tonga faced Moruroa and performed pe’e (traditional chants) “urging the French to take their bombs away.” On September 5, Cook Islands’ national seismic monitoring station detected the first nuclear detonation in the Pacific since 1991. Enoka, the bodybuilder, felt devastated: “I was thinking no, it can’t be true…it’s hard to believe.” Enoka had announced at a press conference the week before that if the test proceeded, he would burn a French flag at Rarotonga’s World War I memorial, dedicated to the 500 Cook Islands soldiers who helped defend France. Hundreds of people came to the Cenotaph to watch as Enoka, dressed as a traditional warrior and surrounded by WWI veterans “shedding tears”, touched a flaming torch to a French flag. Cook Islands News described how the “pent-up emotions” of “anti-test anger” produced an “instant reaction from the crowd, with a wave of shouting and jeering joining the drumbeats as the tricolour was reduced to ashes.” People fed paper flags to the flames, venting “their frustration at France’s deaf ear to pleas of the Polynesian, Pacific and global protest.” The same day, as the Te-Au-O-Tonga left Tahiti to return to Cook Islands, 15,000 Tahitians poured into the streets of Papeete to express their anger at the government. More militant activists occupied the Tahiti’s airport runway and set fire to the international terminal. The South Pacific Forum’s secretary-general, Ieremia Tabai, expressed the region’s “deep disappointment,” saying that the Forum countries “deplore … the way the French use our backyard to test nuclear weapons, putting at risk the Pacific environment, and the health of Pacific peoples….” France proceeded to detonate five more devices in French Polynesia. But facing diplomatic pressure, negative media coverage, a new case at the International Court of Justice, and global consumer boycotts, they finally backed down. Chirac cancelled the last two planned nuclear tests in 1996 and signed the recently negotiated Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). Since 1999, only North Korea has flouted the international norm against nuclear tests. Cook Islands joined the CTBT in 2005. Jolene Bousanquet of the Vaka ki Moruroa campaign lamented that there were “no winners” in the story of nuclear testing in the Pacific. However, while France “lost respect,” Cook Islanders “gained mana [honor or authority] from their campaigns.” Support for the Nuclear Weapons Ban Treaty Today, there remain an estimated 13,400 nuclear weapons in the world. While public mobilization for nuclear disarmament has waned in Cook Islands, it has remained the subject of regular coverage in the Cook Islands News, as well as a government priority. It would be “naïve” to believe Cook Islands could adequately respond to the humanitarian effects of a regional nuclear attack, Patrick A. Arioka told a 2013 conference in Oslo, Norway, on behalf of small island States. Then a Cook Islands emergency management official, Arioka is now a member of Parliament. Pacific States are “determined to support the disarmament of nuclear arms” because the tests have threatened the “cultures and traditions” of those who treasure “our ocean and land environments,” said Arioka. Rising sea levels have increased the risk of “radiation leakage” from Moruroa, even its “collapse.” As a result, “the time for half measures is over.” The way forward, Arioka said, was outlined in a 2011 international Red Cross resolution, co-sponsored by Cook Islands Red Cross, calling for a global prohibition of nuclear weapons, as well as international assistance for “recovery” of environments contaminated by nuclear tests. The Oslo meeting laid the foundations for a nuclear weapons ban treaty, by reframing nuclear diplomacy in terms of humanitarian, environmental, and human rights concerns, not just national security. As a non-member of the U.N., Cook Islands could not participate in the 2017 negotiations of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. But along with co-authors, Cook Islands submitted a working paper to the U.N., calling for closure of “the legal gap,” which left nuclear weapons the only weapons of mass destruction not yet banned by international law. The TPNW categorically prohibits nuclear weapons and establishes a framework for their elimination. The Treaty’s preamble recognizes the “unacceptable suffering of and harm caused to the victims” of nuclear weapons use and testing, as well as the “disproportionate impact” on indigenous peoples. As a result, the TPNW obligates assistance to victims of nuclear weapons use and testing and remediation of contaminated environments. On June 11, the Republican-controlled Senate Armed Services Committee voted on partisan lines to appropriate $10 million for a nuclear test “if necessary.” The Arms Control Association said that if approved, a U.S. nuclear test would “raise tensions and probably trigger an outbreak of nuclear testing by other nuclear actors, leading to an all-out global arms race in which everyone would come out a loser.” Siai Taylor of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs told Cook Islands News that “What is perhaps not immediately clear to many … is just how close ongoing warring, strategic military and conflict situations are to us.” The “rising tensions” between military powers and their “continued reliance on nuclear weapons” has increased “the risk of a deliberate or accidental nuclear detonation.” While it is “unlikely that we are the targets,” there is “a very real possibility” that Cook Islanders “would come in harm’s way, or fall victim to a … nuclear mishap,” said Taylor. Cook Islands’ 2018 accession to the TPNW was thus “a reiteration of our anti-nuclear weapons stance,” an expression of its commitment to “humanitarian values,” “sustainable development” and “international law.”
Cover photo: Cook Islands’ largest ever political demonstration, against French nuclear testing, 23 June 1995. Steve Morgan, used with permission."
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