Tag Archives: Part

By-election candidates take part in online hustings

By-election candidates take part in online hustings


The hustings, hosted by reporter Kevin Janiak and watched by members of the public online, saw Jenny Linehan, Scottish Conservatives; Jonny Adamson, Liberal Democrats; Mary Douglas, Independent; Michael Needham, Greens; John Paton Day, SNP; Scott Redpath, Labour and Karen Wilks, Independent, debate several issues, including the climate emergency, support groups, Covid-19, the role of party politics in local governance, and, of course, potholes.

The virtual hustings gets under way.
The virtual hustings gets under way.



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Whisky history made as online bidder pays £1m for rare Macallan – part of sale of US philanthropist’s ‘Perfect Collection’

Whisky history made as online bidder pays £1m for rare Macallan – part of sale of US philanthropist’s ‘Perfect Collection’


WHISKY history was made this week as the curtain came down on the auction of “The Perfect Collection” of whisky – which included a rare 60-year-old Macallan going under the hammer for £1 million.

The collection was amassed by late US businessman and philanthropist Richard Gooding, who dedicated over two decades to collecting whiskies from almost every Scottish distillery. His collection of 3,900 bottles of primarily single malt whisky generated extensive global interest due to its coveted and rare bottles, as well as its size.

With a total final hammer price of £6,675,000, the collection has become the highest-value private collection ever to sell on the secondary market at an auction dedicated to one single collector’s whisky.

The auction was hosted in two parts by Whisky Auctioneer due to the sheer scale of Mr Gooding’s whisky library.

Part two of the sale, on Monday, February 22, saw 1,557 bidders from 54 countries battling it out for over 1,900 lots.

Whisky Auctioneer founder Iain McClune, at The Gleneagles Hotel American Bar, with some of the highlights from Richard Gooding's collection.
Whisky Auctioneer founder Iain McClune, at The Gleneagles Hotel American Bar, with some of the highlights from Richard Gooding’s collection.

The most expensive bottle in the collection, The Macallan 1926 Fine & Rare 60 Year Old, sold for a hammer price of £1 million – the first time a single bottle of whisky has sold at an online-only auction at that price.

Part one of the auction saw The Macallan 1926 Valerio Adami 60 Year Old sell for £825,000 at hammer price.

Iain McClune, founder of Whisky Auctioneer, said: “This auction was solely dedicated to one collector’s magnificent library of whisky – a man who was dedicated to building The Perfect Collection.

“As enthusiasts of whisky ourselves, we knew that this collection deserved its own spotlight to allow us to truly convey the rarity and sheer scale of something so historic.

“The results from The Perfect Collection clearly show that our auction model is significantly shaking up the traditional secondary market.

“It has been a privilege for us to share Mr Gooding’s legacy with the world and we would like to thank everyone who participated in making whisky history.

“With so many incredible bottles attracting the attention of high-value investors and passionate collectors across the world, the sale is one for the record books – not just for Whisky Auctioneer but for the whisky industry as a whole.”


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Latest coronavirus rate for each part of Birmingham and West Midlands with 8 areas rising

Latest coronavirus rate for each part of Birmingham and West Midlands with 8 areas rising


Tuesday’s update of coronavirus case rates for every local authority area in England has been released.

North Warwickshire (176.2 to 234.4) is the second fastest rising area in the country, with 52 other parts of England rising also.

The West Midlands area is in the top 10, alongside Tamworth at 233 cases per 100,000 people, and Sandwell, which is fifth, at 252 coronavirus cases per 100k.

Wyre Forest is rising too, as is Malvern Hills, Herefordshire and Stratford on Avon.

Nuneaton and Bedworth is also rising, as is Redditch and Tamworth.

The figures, for the seven days to February 19, are based on tests carried out in laboratories (pillar one of the Government’s testing programme) and in the wider community (pillar two).

The rate is expressed as the number of new cases per 100,000 people.



A cleaner disinfects the reception at the Jewellery Quarter Academy in Birmingham

Data for the most recent four days (February 20-23) has been excluded as it is incomplete and does not reflect the true number of cases.

The list has been calculated by the PA news agency based on Public Health England data published on February 23 on the Government’s coronavirus dashboard.

Here is the list in full. From left to right, it reads: name of local authority; rate of new cases in the seven days to February 19; number (in brackets) of new cases recorded in the seven days to February 19; rate of new cases in the seven days to February 12; number (in brackets) of new cases recorded in the seven days to February 12.

Top 50:

Corby, 344.8, (249), 315.7, (228)

Peterborough, 270.9, (548), 264.0, (534)

Middlesbrough, 267.4, (377), 322.0, (454)

Leicester, 255.5, (905), 252.9, (896)

Sandwell, 252.7, (830), 293.5, (964)

Rutland, 240.4, (96), 135.2, (54)

Ashfield, 235.3, (301), 290.8, (372)

North Warwickshire, 234.4, (153), 176.2, (115)

Tamworth, 233.4, (179), 208.6, (160)

Bury, 232.5, (444), 205.8, (393)

Preston, 230.6, (330), 255.7, (366)

Mansfield, 230.5, (252), 259.8, (284)

St Helens, 225.9, (408), 288.0, (520)

Bolton, 222.9, (641), 259.8, (747)

Redditch, 221.7, (189), 194.7, (166)

North West Leicestershire, 221.0, (229), 203.6, (211)

Wellingborough, 219.6, (175), 204.5, (163)

Luton, 211.2, (450), 261.4, (557)

Bradford, 210.8, (1138), 208.0, (1123)

Kettering, 209.3, (213), 254.5, (259)

Fenland, 209.1, (213), 237.6, (242)

Slough, 204.0, (305), 217.3, (325)

Charnwood, 203.4, (378), 182.4, (339)

East Staffordshire, 197.9, (237), 264.7, (317)

Erewash, 197.6, (228), 196.8, (227)

Nottingham, 194.1, (646), 240.6, (801)

Tameside, 192.1, (435), 200.9, (455)

Gedling, 191.7, (226), 210.4, (248)

Bassetlaw, 191.6, (225), 203.5, (239)

Wakefield, 190.3, (663), 182.9, (637)

Stockton-on-Tees, 190.0, (375), 203.2, (401)

Rotherham, 188.8, (501), 216.6, (575)

Doncaster, 188.2, (587), 187.9, (586)

Newark and Sherwood, 185.4, (227), 257.3, (315)

Walsall, 185.3, (529), 273.9, (782)

Kirklees, 184.0, (809), 178.7, (786)

Salford, 183.9, (476), 213.7, (553)

Wolverhampton, 183.8, (484), 222.5, (586)

South Holland, 183.1, (174), 156.8, (149)

Derby, 182.7, (470), 198.6, (511)

Hartlepool, 182.6, (171), 168.7, (158)

Telford and Wrekin, 182.4, (328), 197.9, (356)

Barnsley, 179.4, (443), 179.0, (442)

Sunderland, 179.3, (498), 223.3, (620)

Boston, 178.1, (125), 188.1, (132)

Calderdale, 177.8, (376), 192.0, (406)

Stockport, 175.2, (514), 191.2, (561)

Nuneaton and Bedworth, 174.8, (227), 171.7, (223)

Birmingham, 174.4, (1991), 225.0, (2569)

Wigan, 174.3, (573), 175.3, (576)

Rest of West Midlands:

Cannock Chase, 172.7, (174), 207.4, (209)

Dudley, 170.1, (547), 195.3, (628)

Rugby, 158.8, (173), 178.1, (194)

Coventry, 147.8, (549), 167.7, (623)

Lichfield, 147.0, (154), 158.5, (166)

Stoke-on-Trent, 145.9, (374), 163.4, (419)

South Staffordshire, 145.9, (164), 212.6, (239)

Wyre Forest, 144.1, (146), 134.3, (136)

Solihull, 133.6, (289), 189.0, (409)

Malvern Hills, 130.9, (103), 106.7, (84)

Shropshire, 130.3, (421), 146.4, (473)

Wychavon, 128.3, (166), 160.7, (208)

Worcester, 118.6, (120), 165.0, (167)

Newcastle-under-Lyme, 105.1, (136), 118.2, (153)

Stafford, 101.3, (139), 145.0, (199)

Herefordshire, 99.6, (192), 78.3, (151)

Bromsgrove, 98.1, (98), 137.2, (137)

Warwick, 97.4, (140), 107.1, (154)

Stratford-on-Avon, 90.7, (118), 84.6, (110)

Staffordshire Moorlands, 85.3, (84), 109.7, (108)





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Tencent, Ant Group banks to take part in digital yuan trials · TechNode

Tencent, Ant Group banks to take part in digital yuan trials · TechNode


Tencent’s WeBank and Ant Group’s MyBank will be the first two privately owned banks to participate in digital yuan trials, Chinese media reported.

Why it matters: The two online banks will be the first fintech companies to participate in the tests, possibly gaining an edge over their competitors despite widespread speculation that developing the currency was in part to curb their influence.

  • The report comes just weeks after Ant Group reportedly reached a deal with Chinese regulators to restructure its operations amid a crackdown on fintech and big tech.

Details: Under the supervision of the People’s Bank of China (PBOC), the two banks are preparing to join trials such as those already underway, which are run by six state-owned banks, China Securities Journal reported citing anonymous sources.

  • WeBank and MyBank accounts will soon become available on the digital yuan wallet app, the report said. Much like Ant’s and Tencent’s respective digital payment apps, the e-CNY app works by connecting to different bank accounts and transferring money to the wallet.

READ MORE: UPDATED: We got some digital yuan!

Context: Ant Group’s Alipay and Tencent’s WeChat Pay digital payment platforms account for a respective 56% and 38.8% of China’s digital payment market, according to a report from market research firm iResearch. Holding such portions of the market fulfill criteria for the pair to be considered a duopoly, according to draft antitrust rules released by the PBOC in January.

  • The digital RMB will enable other players, including traditional banks, to compete with the two fintech giants.
  • Ant Group and Tencent each hold around 30% share of their respective licensed digital banks.
  • E-commerce giant and Alibaba rival JD.com has been a high-profile participant in the digital RMB trials, even funding a $4.6 million lottery to distribute the currency in Suzhou.
  • Some Ant employees in Shanghai have reportedly been participating in digital yuan trials.

Eliza is TechNode’s blockchain and fintech reporter. When she isn’t obsessing over the rise of distributed ledger technology in China, she helps with editing.



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Plane In Nigeria Crash Part Of Kidnap Rescue Operation

Plane In Nigeria Crash Part Of Kidnap Rescue Operation


Plane In Nigeria Crash Part Of Kidnap Rescue Operation

The cause of the accident is still unknown but officials said the pilot had reported an engine failure.

Abuja, Nigeria:

Seven people on board a military aircraft died in a crash on Sunday near Nigeria’s capital Abuja, the country’s airforce spokesman said.

The plane was scheduled to conduct a surveillance mission in connection with an operation to rescue dozens of people kidnapped from a school Wednesday in nearby Niger State.

Gunmen known locally as “bandits” killed a schoolboy and captured 42 people, including 27 students, three teachers and relatives of school staff, officials said, in the country’s latest mass kidnapping.

President Muhammadu Buhari ordered security forces to free the kidnap victims and the army and police said they were tracking the gang.

The plane that crashed Sunday “was scheduled to conduct surveillance missions over Niger State and its environs in connection with the concerted efforts to secure the release of the students/staff,” spokesman Ibikunle Daramola said in a statement.

The cause of the accident is still unknown but officials said the pilot had reported an engine failure.

The “Nigerian Air Force (NAF) Beechcraft KingAir B350i aircraft crashed while returning to the Abuja Airport after reporting engine failure,” Daramola said.

Newsbeep

“Sadly, all 7 personnel on board died in the crash,” he added.

Video posted to social media showed water cannon being used to extinguish the flames at the scene, while a large number of onlookers crowded around.

The airforce said an investigation into the accident was underway.

Nigeria’s minister of aviation Sirika Hadi also confirmed the accident.

“We should remain calm & wait for the outcome of investigation by the military,” Hadi said in a Tweet.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)



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2020: The History That Was – Part 4

2020: The History That Was – Part 4


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2020 to 2021

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As the rest of the world  was perceived to be “going to hell in a handbasket with an out-of-control pandemic; ructions in Europe as Britain copes with “Brexit” chaos; Trumpism in the United States climaxing with the 6 January mob-led coup attempt in Washington’s Capitol; a deadly resurgent covid19 outbreak in Victoria, Australia (at time of writing); Russia continuing to harass and murder political dissidents with impunity; China  cracking down brutally on Hong Kong and it’s Uighur minority; and global temperatures continuing to rise as Humans blithely pump CO2 into the atmosphere – New Zealanders were spectators to our own issues, dramas, and problems…

Media (1 – Clickbait) 

TDB Recommends NewzEngine.com

We all coped with the Level 4 and 3 lockdowns in our own personal way. Some better than others, with varying degrees of stress.

According to the Ministry of Health website (last updated 25 August 2020), they were fully cognisant of the psychological impact that the threat of covid19;  lockdowns; restricted movement and social contact, might have upon the general population;

“We want people to know it is normal to not feel all right all the time – it’s understandable to feel sad, distressed, worried, confused, anxious or angry during this crisis. Everyone reacts differently to difficult events, and some may find this time more challenging than others. The ways people think, feel and behave are likely to change over time – we all have good days and bad days.”

Psychological stress was soon picked up by medical professionals.

In October last year, writing for the NZ Medical Journal, Meisha Nicolson and Jayde  Flett reported;

“Although fewer people reported severe experiences of depression and anxiety post-lockdown (5% compared to 8% during lockdown), this reduction mostly occurred in non-Māori/non-Pasifika people. Of those who completed both during and post-lockdown surveys, over half reported no experiences at both time points, while 22% had improved experiences and 13% had worsening experiences post-lockdown.

Experiences of depression and anxiety were common for young people both during and post-lockdown. Almost 60% of young people had some experience of depression or anxiety post-lockdown (57%), 10% being severe.”

In November,  Clinical Psychologist for Victoria University of Wellington and Umbrella Health, Dr Dougal Sutherland, commented;

“The data confirms in many ways what was expected: that many Kiwis were distressed and anxious in the midst of the lockdown. However, the study also shows a few interesting twists: about a third of New Zealanders reported significant distress, and rates in younger people (18-34 years) were higher than for older people. Interestingly, rates of distress amongst women and men were quite similar, which is unusual as often women report higher levels of distress.

Although the study couldn’t tell us exactly what about the lockdown people found stressful, it is likely that a combination of health anxiety and worry about the potential economic consequences of COVID-19 played a role. Sadly, more people reported feeling suicidal and there were higher rates of family violence during lockdown too.

Whilst the focus of our response to COVID-19 has now shifted onto the economy and ongoing containment on the virus, this study is a timely reminder that the virus has not only biological, but also psychological consequences. These psychological effects are likely to have a ‘long tail’ and be with us long after the virus has been contained or eliminated. The new Minister of Health will want to pay close attention to studies like this and continue investing in training of mental health professionals to inoculate the country against a future wave of mental health difficulties.”

The mainstream media not only failed to ameliorate the psychological impact of lockdowns (and post lockdowns) – but exacerbated anxiety with a constant, non-stop, daily diet of “human interest” stories. These were almost always focused on expat New Zealanders struggling to get home – often for tragic reasons such as terminal illness;

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NZ families overseas - stranded - covid19

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The stories were relentless. Day after day, almost always personalised with photos of couples or entire families, they were tragic, heart-breaking, and intensely intimate.

Even Radio NZ was not immune, with “human interest” stories – often with interviews – on “Morning Report” as well as “Checkpoint“.

Even when Returnees has succeeded in coming home, the “human interest” value continued to be exploited; milked of every hint of pathos and frustration;

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exp;loiting human interest stories - clickbait

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It is hard to ascertain how deeply these “human interest” stories impacted on audiences, creating unnecessary anxiety, but it is worth noting this warning on the Covid-19 website;

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You may find it useful to limit your time online. Check media and social media at specific times once or twice a day.”

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The website for Depression NZ was even more dire with it’s warning to limit media intake;

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Find a healthy balance in relation to media coverage

        • Being exposed to repeated negative information can be upsetting. While it’s important to stay informed, you may find it useful to limit your media intake if it is upsetting you or your family.
        • Try to stick to the facts and verified and government sources Unite against COVID-19.
        • Reassure your child or teen that it is OK to feel worried. Share with them how you deal with your own stress so that they can learn how to cope from you.
        • When others share information with you, their facts may not always be accurate – keep this in mind when you hear something about COVID-19 that is not endorsed by trusted sources such as Unite against COVID-19 or the World Health Organization.

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This blogger acknowledges that it is a delicate balancing act when presenting accurate information to media audiences.

But the personalisation of “human interest” (aka, “sob stories”) was counter-productive and ultimately, harmful. They were “clickbait” to sell advertising (or increase audience share in RNZ’s case), at the expense of our mental well-being and sensationalised at a time when many of us were vulnerable to heightened levels of stress and anxiety.

This blogger at one point last year switched off all devices and instituted a self-imposed, 48 hour, black-out on all media – including RNZ.  When I switch off RNZ, you know things are getting bad.

This blogger maintains that there is a vast difference between presenting the public with hard news that make us more informed citizens – and flooding us with a non-stop, unrelenting diet of tragedy that serves no purpose and only heightens peoples’ anxiety.

Contrast the stories above with the measured reporting by TVNZ journalist, Jack Tame, upon his return and quarantine.  His reporting was a mix of “human interest” and factual details, but without “ambulance chasing” exploitation of people’s circumstances and/or “First World” complaints;

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returnees complaining

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Some wit at the Otago Daily Times, noting the preponderence of teeth-gnashing and wailing, had their own ‘take’ on the #nzhellhole stories with this subtle ‘dig’;

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#nzhellhole.

(April fools story or real? Hard to tell the difference!)

And when even the vacuous Kate Hawkesby pens a story that puts things into perspective;

“Yes this week has shown up some potentially glaring issues at the Pullman, but it doesn’t mean all Hotels are doing a bad job. It doesn’t mean the returnees are at fault or doing anything wrong either. Most people are grateful to be here, appreciative of what NZ has achieved, and want to do the right thing.”

– you just know that some Returnees need to get their priorities in order, and the media should look closely at how it amplifies (and exploits) peoples’ frustrations and fears.

Meanwhile, the real stories we need to know are barely covered;

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nurses - cleaners - MIQ facilities

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Underpaid and over-worked MIQ workers apparently don’t attract the eyeballs and/or clicks, as much as families in tragic circumstances.

(Note: The so-called “human interest” stories continue to present day.)

Media (2 – Or, “The RNZ Holiday Silly Season”)

Speaking of RNZ, former producer for RNZ’s “Saturday Morning” for Kim Hill,  Mark Cubey on Twitter last December pointed out one of my personal pet peeves when it comes to Aotearoa’s mainstream media;

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RNZ - summer stop

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Every year, for about a month, RNZ closes down ‘Morning Report‘, ‘Nine to Noon‘, ‘Checkpoint‘, and loses a whole bunch of well known hosts. The end-of-year winding-down of NZ’s flagship programmes began the week before Christmas. After Christmas, main programming is put on hiatus until the third week of January.

First to go is ‘Morning Report‘, which in the week leading up to Christmas is reduced from three to two hours in length. The last three hour episode is on Tuesday 22 December, and the following day, the programme is whittled down to two hours.

From Tuesday, 29 December 2020, the programme is reduced to one hour and in the New Year re-branded ‘Summer Report‘.  Episode lengths are one hour (or two, when it was forced to increase it’s duration on 8 January to cover the Washington coup d’état attempt). Programme lengths increased to two hours from Monday, 18 January 2021 to Friday, 22 January 2021.

There was a further special three hour edition of ‘Summer Report’ on Thursday, 21 January 2021 to cover President Biden’s Inuguration.

Summer Report‘ remains in-situ until ‘Morning Report‘ resumes, at its normal three hour duration, on Monday, 25 January 2021.

Nine to Noon‘ is replaced with ‘Summer Times‘,  hosted by Emile Donovan. The show is a more chat-show-like version of the regular ‘Nine to Noon‘ programme. ‘Summer Times‘ runs from 29 December to 22 January this year.

Checkpoint‘ – usually hosted by the tenacious and talented Lisa Owen – was missing altogether for a solid month. Only a five minute news report replaced the usual one and a half hour in-depth reporting. On 7 January, RNZ was forced to broadcast a one-hour long “RNZ Checkpoint Special” following the Washing riots and failed coup.

Checkpoint’s‘ month-long hiatus is inexplicable. As Mark Cubey pointed out, RNZ effectively “pretends news stops for the NZ summer“.

To the contrary, the world did not close down for the Christmas/New Year period. A pandemic continued to rage around the globe; Brexit was happening and the failure of a UK-Europe agreement came perilously close; and post-Presidential election events in the United States were causing ructions that reverberated around the planet.

At a time when events escalated, RNZ was missing in action.

And not just the state-owned broadcaster. The final episode (end-of-year Christmas party segment notwithstanding) of TV3’s “The Nation” aired on 28 November, and TV1’s “Q+A” on 6 December. Both then closed down, going into summer-hibernation for several months. (Q+A‘s first episode this year aired on 13 February.)

At a time when we most needed in-depth reporting of global events, we were – and remain – poorly served by our three main  broadcasters.

It is understandable that producing programmes like ‘Morning Report’ and ‘Checkpoint‘ place high demands on RNZ staff. They all deserve well-earned breaks from the stresses of their work. But it should not be beyond the wit and abilities of RNZ management (with consultation with staff) to create a holiday roster that allows programming to continue as normal. If necessary, RNZ could employ journalism students (on a living wage) as paid interns, on short-term contracts.

It is not acceptable that, for a month, we are denied current affairs programmes by our main broadcasters.

RNZ has a strong, dedicated following of loyal listeners who expect high standards from our public broadcaster. Those expectations do not lessen from late December through to late January. The world does not stop on 24 December and resume at some arbitrary point in time in the new year.

National

National was thrashed at last year’s election.

Overall, they crashed from 1,152,075 Party Votes in 2017, to 738,275 last year, losing 23 MPs in the process.

The causes of their defeat has been well canvassed. Reasons range from in-fighting; three leadership changes; leaks; inconsistent policy-making and fiscal ineptitude; and a current Leader who is – frankly speaking – just downright unlikeable.

All of the above is true.

But there is a more basic reason: National got hit by a virus called covid19 – at least metaphorically speaking.

National fought last year’s election as if it were 2017.  They were wedded to their mantra that “National are better economic managers”.

Unfortunately (for National supporters) the economy was only secondary to people’s concerns. For the majority, the main issue of concern – unsurprisingly – was health. More specifically, our health and safety as humanity faced a global pandemic sweeping almost every nation, and which has hospitalised and killed millions.

Almost daily, we were witnessing an out-of-control pandemic raging through Europe, UK, South America, and even the United States – the most advanced and wealthiest nation on the planet. We saw hospitals over-run by covid cases and mass graves being dug in Brazil and elsewhere in South America. In New York, trucks filled with rotting corpses seemed like something out of a post-apocalypse horror/science fiction  movie.

In Aotearoa New Zealand, the then-Labour-NZ First- Green coalition moved reasonably quickly (some might argue they should have acted earlier – but hindsight is always 20/20). At one minute to midnight on 23 March 2020, the country moved to Alert Level 3. Two days later, we went to near total lockdown to Level 4. On 29 March, the inevitable happened: we had our first covid death.

As we listened and watched our Prime Minister address the nation on those first evenings, and subsequently thereafter, we must have felt like five million “extras” in the Will Smith movie, “I Am Legend“, or the 1970s British sf tv series, “The Survivors“.

It was unprecedented. We were practically at war. And we were called upon to do our bit: stay home; watch TV. (How difficult could that be?)

It was against this backdrop that National contested the election.

But National was fighting a pre-Covid campaign based on “economic management” and – at one point – a  promise of “temporary” tax cuts. Worse still was Paul Goldsmith’s startling explanation that the tax cuts would be paid out of the $14 billion Covid Recovery fund set aside in the event of a second wave hitting the country!

New Zealanders got the message perfectly: National’s priority was the economy.

Voters would have been uneasy. That was not our collective priority. Our main concern was fighting a virus and keeping it out of the community.

Could National be trusted to make that their Number One Focus? At least 1,670,300 New Zealanders thought not.

National has always touted itself to be a pro-business, small-government Party. It’s policies on its own website is unequivocal in that respect. Even their Covid19 policy page was heavility tilted toward the economy;

A National Government will inject some steel into our first line of defence against COVID-19 by delivering robust border systems that will keep the virus at bay and allow our economy to thrive, National Party Leader Judith Collins says.

“The threat of COVID-19 will be with us for years to come and National is committed to safeguarding the health of all New Zealanders, as well as the wider economy.”

And their reference to limiting lockdowns to preserve economic activity also left no room for doubt where their priorities lay;

Preparing a more effective response to future outbreaks, should they occur, allowing lockdowns to be more targeted and shorter in duration.

[…]

Reducing the need for lockdowns could not be more crucial. The first lockdown saw 212,000 Kiwis end up on unemployment benefits with another 450,000 jobs kept alive by wage subsidies. The current lockdown is estimated to be costing Auckland 250 jobs and up to $75 million a day in economic activity.

[…]

“Continuous improvement of our systems is required so that lockdowns become more targeted and effective, with minimal impact on our communities and the economy.”

(See also “Wally of the Year” Award below.)

On 22 September, it was reported that National would relax border controls for economic reasons. Couched in terms of pseudo-safety rhetoric, National’s intentions were plain for all to see;

National have announced that, if elected, they will ramp up the private provision of quarantine to allow workers and long-term tourists into the country.

At an event in Auckland’s Viaduct Harbour deputy leader Gerry Brownlee said Covid-19 would be with us for a long time and the country had to establish safe conditions for skilled and essential workers to re-enter the country. 

Allowing workers in the Recognised Seasonal Employer scheme to return is at the top of that agenda, but the kind of measures the National Party is interested in exploring would extend to a number of industries with the costs of quarantine paid by industry or by individuals who wanted to enter New Zealand.

“Our horticultural industry, for example, is desperate to fill the worker shortage created by border restrictions that is putting $9.5 billion of the country’s economy at risk,” Brownlee said.

The party would implement a booking system for managed isolation facilities and explore “streamlined” travel arrangements for low-risk countries like Covid-free nations in the Pacific. 

And private quarantine facilities were also mooted;

Brownlee said National would work with accommodation providers to create private quarantine arrangements that met or exceeded levels of safety, security, reporting, transporting, training and testing. 

But in Victoria private security guards proved to be utterly disastrous;

The failures in Victoria’s “hastily assembled” hotel quarantine are “responsible” for the state’s 768 deaths and 18,418 cases since the end of May, the inquiry heard on Monday.

[…]

“One only needs to pause and to reflect on those figures to appreciate the full scope of devastation and despair occasioned as a result of the outbreak,” counsel assisting Ben Ihle said.

“It was a program which failed to meet its primary objective to keep us safe from the virus.”

[…]

Throughout the course of the inquiry, none of the witnesses, including the premier, Daniel Andrews, said they made the decision to use private security guards for guarding returned travellers.

This was the clear message New Zealanders got from National: they were more focused on economic activity than on keeping the virus out of the country.

On 27 August last year, National issued a press statement outlining it’s small business policy. Covid19 and border controls were not mentioned once.

The UK has had “targetted lockdowns” – half-hearted measures that has resulted (at time of writing) 3,929,835 cases and 112,092 deaths.

This was National’s offering to New Zealanders and we wanted no part of it. Quite simply, most people did not trust National to prioritise our health over someone elses’ wealth.

NZ First

For the second time in it’s twentyseven year long history, NZ First has been thrown out of Parliament by voters. It’s share of the Party vote dropped from 7.2% in 2017 to 2.6% last year. 111,685 voters deserted the Party.

Again, the reasons are varied, but this blogger submits that one specific factor was the cause of it’s Parliamentary demise.

In October 2019, a survey found that 44.5% of NZ First voters would have preferred  National as a coalition partner after the 2017 General Election. Only 34.1% opted for Labour.

So the majority of NZ First supporters leaned toward National, not Labour.

Winston Peters and his party chose Labour instead, alienating nearly half their voter-base.

This is the only possible outcome when a political party refuses to disclose it’s preferred coalition intentions to voters so that they can cast their ballots accordingly.

In effect, by not making such a disclosure; by leaving that decision until after the election, NZ First supporters were handing Mr Peters & Co a “blank cheque”.

The remaining 34.1% who supported coalition with Labour were also alienated when NZ First made it clear it was a “hand brake” on their coalition partners.

A prime example was Labour’s attempt to implement a capital gains tax to slow investor speculation in the steadily worsening housing price-bubble. NZ First MP Shane Jones made it crystal clear who was responsible for “killing” the tax;

“The reality is you already had that announcement and none of you rung to thank me for NZ First killing off the capital gains tax.”

NZ First managed to anger both National and Labour-leaning supporters. Quite a feat when you think about it.

It’s demise was inevitable.

Wally of the Year Award

There were several contenders:

    • Simon Bridges for his non-stop negativity and failing to read-the-room when the nation was focused solely on keeping covid out and saving lives.
      • Judith Collins, for her sheer, barely-contained malice.
      • This idiot.
      • Minister David Clark, who should have known better.
      • Jami-Lee Ross for unmitigated colossal cheek for naked political opportunism and (alleged) harassment of staff.
      • Billy Te Kahika, for achieving the dubious distinction as Aotearoa New Zealand’s go-too man for every conspiracy fantasy under the sun.
      • Former National Party President, Michelle Boag, for being so blindingly wrong on just about everything, especially why covid19 has the number ’19’ followings it’s name. (Clue; no, it’s not because there were 18 strains preceding this one.) And for leaking private covid19 patient names.
      • Former National MP, Hamish Walker, also for leaking private Covid19 patient details.
      • National MP Michael Woodhouse, for his bizarre (and untrue) “homeless man” story.
      • Plan B “sciencey poster boy”, Simon Thornley, who despite all the evidence, apparently wants Aotearoa New Zealand to follow Sweden’s model in dealing with covid19. Because, y’know, our 25 dead compared to Sweden’s 12,428 death toll is somehow a “failure” in his eyes?

But heads above the candidates listed, this blogger nominates Auckland Chamber of Commerce CEO, Michael Barnett.

Mr Barnett’s non-stop carping against lock-downs or calling for watered-down lock-downs, or exemptions for every business and Uncle Tom Cobbly, were in a league of their own;

.

.

In a blogpost on 23 August last year, activist John Minto detailed Mr Barnett’s non-stop carping and misguided attempts to undermine Aotearoa New Zealand’s strategy to eliminate covid19. Had National been in power there is every chance they would have capitulated to Mr Barnett’s increasingly strident demands to weaken lockdowns and allow businesses to operate “as normal”.

The consequences, as shown by other countries, would have been horrific. Hospitals flooded with infected people; ICU wards over-flowing; rising death toll; cemetaries filling up; and Long Covid leaving people suffering debilitating after-effects for months later, perhaps for years to come.

As an agent speaking on behalf of business, he earned his salary. As an agent agitating on behalf of covid19, he excelled.

2020 – But wait, there’s more!

There was more – so much more! – to 2020. But let’s leave something for future (and present) historians to mull over, shall we?

And now, 2021…

.

The concluding fourth chapter of 2020: The History That Was.

.

.

References

The Wall Street Journal: The Covid-19 Death Toll Is Even Worse Than It Looks

Al Jazeera: In post-Brexit UK, quiet ports hide mounting transport chaos

The Atlantic: This is a coup

The Guardian: Victoria hotel quarantine failures ‘responsible’ for Covid second wave and 768 deaths, inquiry told

CNN: Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny dupes spy into revealing how he was poisoned

CNBC: Hundreds arrested in Hong Kong protests, as analysts weigh in on national security law’s impact

BBC: The Uighurs and the Chinese state – A long history of discord

Reuters: Global temperatures reached record highs in 2020, say EU scientists

NZ Herald: Covid 19 coronavirus – Quarantine food so bad guest forks out for Uber Eats every night

Stuff media: Coronavirus – ‘Tantrum’ as level 1 quarantine walks denied

ODT: Travellers angry over Rotorua quarantine

ODT: Family trapped in luxury Auckland hotel for quarantine

Newstalk ZB: Kate Hawkesby – My brother’s having the time of his life in quarantine

RNZ: MIQ nurses speak out – ‘We’re going to get sloppy … we’re tired and stressed’

RNZ: Risky work – MIQ cleaners underpaid and undervalued, union says

RNZ: Mark Cubey (profile)

Twitter: Mark Cubey – RNZ stopping for summer – 21.12.2020

RNZ: Morning Report – Wednesday 23 December 2020

RNZ: Morning Report – Tuesday 29 December 2020

RNZ: Summer Report

RNZ: Summer Report – Friday 8 January 2021

RNZ: Summer Report – Monday 18 January 2021

RNZ: Summer Report – Friday 22 January 2021

RNZ: Summer Report – Friday 21 January 2021

RNZ: Morning Report – Monday 25 January 2021

RNZ: Summer Times

RNZ: Summer Times – All episodes

Stuff media: Election 2020 – ‘Covid-19 election’ confirmed in new poll of voters’ concerns

New York Times: Covid Overload – U.S. Hospitals Are Running Out of Beds for Patients

NZ Herald: Covid 19 coronavirus – Mass graves dug as Brazil hits grim new toll

Reuters: Bodies found in unrefrigerated trucks in New York during COVID-19 pandemic

RNZ: Recap – Coronavirus updates in NZ and around the world on 23 March

RNZ: Coronavirus – Covid-19 updates in NZ and around the world on 25 March

RNZ: Coronavirus – First death in New Zealand from Covid-19

RNZ: Coronavirus – First death in New Zealand from Covid-19

Wikipedia: I Am Legend

Wikipedia: The Survivors

Stuff media: Election 2020 – National a better manager of economy, says Goldsmith

RNZ: National promises $4.7bn in tax cuts in economic and tax policy

Newsroom: National’s plan to let workers and tourists in

The Guardian: Victoria hotel quarantine failures ‘responsible’ for Covid second wave and 768 deaths, inquiry told

Scoop media: National Will Back New Zealand’s Small Businesses

Worldometer: United Kingdom Coronavirus Cases

Stuff media: NZ First voters preferred National to Labour at 2017 election by wide margin

NZ Herald: ‘A handbrake for silly ideas:’ Peters to discuss coalition disagreements in conference speech

Stuff media: NZ First put an end to capital gains tax, Shane Jones claims in post-Budget speech





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Sri Lanka banks to surrender part of converted export dollars to central bank

Sri Lanka banks to surrender part of converted export dollars to central bank




ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s banks have been ordered to sell half of mandatorily converted export proceeds to the central bank, financial sector officials said.

Sri Lanka last week ordered exporters to convert 25 percent of export proceeds into rupees and repatriate dollars by 180 days of a shipment.

Banks have been ordered to sell half of the converted dollars (12.5 percent of the total) to the central bank in a new surrender requirement.

The central bank had already ordered banks to surrender 10 percent of converted remittances. Last year Sri Lanka got 7.1 billion US dollars of remittances.

Related

Sri Lanka orders exporters to convert 25-pct of forex earnings

Sri Lanka banks required to sell 10-pct of forex remittances to the central bank

Last year Sri Lanka exported 10.07 billion US dollars of goods. This year 13 billion dollars are expected Central Bank Governor W D Lakshman said earlier in February.

Sri Lanka’s forex reserves had fallen to 4.8 billion US dollars by January and money printing was putting pressure on the island’s soft-peg with the US dollar as domestic credit gradually recovered from a Coronavirus lockdown and printed money ended up in forex markets.

Any dollar bought by a pegged central bank by-passes the forex market, creates more liquidity and adds to loanable reserves of the banking system. (Colombo/Feb20/2021)




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Hundreds of students take part in awareness prog


DIYUN, 19 Feb: Over 200 students from New Rising English Academy, Mahabodhi School and Sneha School here took part in a cleanliness drive and a rally as part of an awareness program on drug abuse and cleanliness under Changlang district on Friday.

The awareness programme was jointly organized by the Arunachal Pradesh Chakma Students’ Union (APCSU) and Chakma Youth Federation of Arunachal (CYFA), in collaboration with the local administration, schools, Diyun Bazaar Committee and Hajong Students’ Union.

Inaugurating the programme, Extra Assistant Commissioner S Roy asked students and youths to stay away from alcohol and substance abuse and not get involved in unlawful trade of drugs.

APCSU president Drishya Muni Chakma in his address highlighted the adverse affects of substance abuse and also advised youths to stay away from substance abuse.



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Vijaya Sai to take part in padayatra on VSP today

Vijaya Sai to take part in padayatra on VSP today


YSR Congress Party (YSRCP) north constituency coordinator K.K. Raju has said that the State government and the YSR Congress Party (YSRCP) have already clarified their stand against privatisation of Visakhapatnam Steel Plant (VSP). Addressing a media conference here on Friday, Mr. Raju said that party general secretary and Rajya Sabha member V. Vijaya Sai Reddy would start a padayatra for protection of the Visakhapatnam Steel Plant (VSP) from the Gandhi statue, near the GVMC, at 8 a.m. on Saturday.

The 25-km-long trek would pass through Asilametta, Railway New Colony, Thatichetlapalem, Marripalem, NAD Kotha Road Junction, Sheela Nagar and Gajuwaka. The padayatra would conclude in a public meeting at the Steel Plant gate near Kurmannapalem. Mr. Raju expressed confidence that the Centre would revoke its decision and the VSP would be continued in the public sector. Chief Minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy has already clarified that the POSCO had come to the State to set up steel plants at other places like Kadapa, Nizampatnam or Bhavanapadu but not Visakhapatnam.

He alleged that the Opposition was indulging in a false campaign that the State government was welcoming POSCO to the VSP. He called upon all sections of the people to participate in the ‘padayatra’ to save the steel plant. Ministers, MPs, MLAs, MLCs, trade union leaders and different sections of the people were expected to participate in the meeting, he said.

YSRCP leaders Ravi Reddy and Sridhar Reddy were present at the media conference.

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