Squiz Today / 12 February 2020

Squiz Today – Wednesday, 12 February


“I hope my piano will be happy in piano heaven.”

Said Canadian virtuoso Angela Hewitt of the demise of her “best friend” after movers dropped the bespoke instrument worth close to $300,000. While pondering if inanimate objects have feelings, do you think her guitar gently wept?


Idlib, the last opposition-held part of war-torn Syria, is the stage for a potential new war - this time between Turkey and Syria. Tensions are at boiling point as their troops exchanged deadly fire on Monday for the second time in a week. It follows Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s decision to send more troops to the northern province to slow the advance of forces commanded by Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad. While Turkey has been involved in operations in Syria against Islamic State and Kurdish forces in recent years, it’s the first time it has fought the Syrian government and its allied troops.

Turkey fears (another) massive influx of refugees from Syria. It has held those fears for some time, and as part of 2018 deal with Russia (which backs Syria), Turkey set up 12 outposts in Idlib to monitor the situation. But with the Assad government determined to take control of the last bit of opposition-held territory after a nine-year civil war, reports say 700,000 Syrian civilians have been pushed to the Turkish border in recent weeks. Erdogan has given Syria until the end of the month to pull back from the outposts. He has also urged Russia to convince the Syrian government to call off its offensive. But the tit-for-tat attacks between Turkish and Syrian forces do not bode well, experts say.

While we’re in the troubled region, a big meeting of aid agencies and donors will take place on Thursday to respond to the “unprecedented and unacceptable obstruction” of aid to 6.7 million people in northern Yemen. United Nations officials say the situation is at breaking point. And US officials yesterday confirmed 109 of its service members were diagnosed with mild traumatic brain injuries from “blast exposure” in January’s Iranian missile attack on the al Asad military base in Iraq. Nearly 70% of those injured have returned to duty, reports say. US President Donald Trump had initially said that no US forces were injured in the attack.



Omar al-Bashir, the man who ruled Sudan for 30 years until he was ousted last year, will be handed over to the International Criminal Court to face genocide and war crimes charges. That’s the undertaking made by the military leaders who are overseeing Sudan’s transition to democracy as part of a bigger peace deal with rebel groups. Bashir and three others are accused of committing serious crimes in Darfur in 2003 that led to the deaths of 300,000 people. He is currently serving two years in a social reform facility for corruption. Observers say don’t be too surprised if those in charge ultimately renege on the promise.


Yep, that’s the official name for the new coronavirus (made up of the words "corona", "virus" and "disease" and the year it emerged). Whatever it’s called, there was an escalation in the number of deaths in China that saw the toll pass the 1,000 mark yesterday. More than 42,000 people are infected, and infections outside of China are growing. Sixty-five more people on the quarantined Diamond Princess cruise ship docked in Japan have confirmed cases, including four Australians. And reports say Beijing has “removed” two senior health officials in the Hubei province - where the outbreak started in late December - amid growing outrage over authorities’ handling of the crisis.


The High Court has ruled that Indigenous Australians are exempt from the nation’s immigration laws and can’t be deported. The ruling overrides the Commonwealth’s view that anyone who is not an Australian citizen is an 'alien' by law. Yesterday's decision came as part of a case involving Indigenous men Daniel Love (who was born in Papua New Guinea) and Brendan Thoms (born in New Zealand). Both were permanent residents but faced deportation after they were convicted of criminal charges (for crimes that aren’t linked). The High Court yesterday said na-ah in a decision that went 4-3 in favour of preventing their removal from Oz. Thoms was released from immigration detention, but Love's claim to Indigenous ancestry is still being determined. The government said the decision created a “new category of persons”, while some legal experts said it would give “special rights” to Aboriginal people.


Australian health experts are warning people to stop taking glucosamine, one of the country’s most popular health supplements. New evidence suggests it doesn’t address symptoms of osteoarthritis and can even be harmful. Glucosamine is a naturally occurring sugar which makes new bone cartilage, but there's limited scientific evidence that supplements are effective. While side effects are rare, it can often contain shellfish, which can cause allergic reactions and can interact badly with medications like blood-thinners. The warning to Aussies comes after the American College of Rheumatology updated its guidelines in October.


After a nine-year stint, Netball Australia has not renewed the contract of the national team’s head coach Lisa Alexander. The 56yo coached the Diamonds in 102 matches but has recently overseen defeats including last year's World Cup loss - our first since 2003. Alexander said she was "disappointed" that her contract was not extended but respected the decision. "Lisa has had a significant impact on our sport and achieved great things in her time, both on and off the court," said Netball Australia boss Marne Fechner. Alexander's last game at the helm is on 1 March, when the Diamonds play a bushfire relief charity match against the Super Netball All-Stars team.


Good news for royal fans… Prince William and Catherine are set to tour bushfire-ravaged Australia, reports say. Aimed at boosting financial support for the recovery effort, the visit is also hoped to get tourism humming again. While the itinerary and dates are yet to be announced, it’s believed the couple will tour towns along the New South Wales and Victorian coast. Wills and Kate are familiar with the format having visited bushfire-affected communities in the Blue Mountains when they were last here in 2014. PM Scott Morrison is expected to issue the formal invitation required for the visit by the end of the week, while an announcement from Kensington Palace is expected in a few weeks. Let’s hope George the Bilby’s around for a catch-up…


12.30pm (AEDT) - Dr Alan Finkel, Australia's Chief Scientist to address the National Press Club - Canberra

The updated Close the Gap report on Indigenous disadvantage to be presented to our federal parliament

Anniversary of the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Charles Darwin (1809)

Anniversary of US President Bill Clinton's acquittal by the Senate in his impeachment trial (1999)


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