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The latest from Squiz Today

“It’s not like we are very social people.” Said Leifseth Ulsom, a previous winner of Alaska’s most famous race – the Iditarod. It’s the indigenous Alaskan name for a ‘far distant place’ – perfect for an epic sled dog race that starts today, will take almost 2 weeks to complete, and covers almost 1,400km. So yeah, it gets lonely…

THE SQUIZ
Defence Minister Linda Reynolds will remain on sick leave for the entirety of March. A pre-existing heart condition saw her admitted to hospital in Canberra on 24 February following scrutiny of her handling of a rape allegation by former staff member Brittany Higgins, and she was due to return to work today. Attorney-General Christian Porter became the second minister in the Morrison Government to take leave in recent weeks – he said he needed a fortnight off to seek help after he was accused of raping an unnamed woman in 1988 when they were teenagers.

THAT’S AN ISSUE BECAUSE…
They’re both senior ministers with a lot on their plates. And while even the government’s critics say the ministers should take the time they need to look after their health, it’s not without problems on the work front. But both are on the National Security Committee, and both have significant portfolio issues on the boil. Reynolds, who apologised to her former staffer on Friday for calling her a “lying cow”, will miss Estimates hearings when senators get to ask the minister and officials some uncomfortable questions. That led Labor Senator Kristina Keneally to ask if she was “trying to pretend that she’s well enough, on the one hand, to continue as Defence Minister but not well enough on the other to front up and answer questions in Parliament?” Meanwhile, Porter, who is also the Industrial Relations minister, was to negotiate the government’s new IR policy pathway through the Senate in the hope of having it passed by the middle of this month. That now looks unlikely, despite acting minister Michaelia Cash’s hustling

AND WHERE ARE THINGS AT WITH THE PORTER CASE?
Exactly where we left you last week. Advocates for an inquiry into the claims continue to press their case, and PM Scott Morrison hasn’t changed his view that it’s not possible outside the legal system. Reports this morning say there is growing hope the South Australian coroner will launch an inquiry into the woman’s death, including from PM Scott Morrison and Coalition MPs. Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins yesterday told ABC TV’s Insiders that there needs to be a look at things, including “whether the justice system, including the police, meet the needs of victims … and get the justice that I think we all expect.” Jenkins has been commissioned by the Morrison Government to conduct a review into the handling and prevention of bullying, sexual harassment and sexual assault complaints for parliamentary staffers.

Foreign Minister Marise Payne last night said Australia’s aid will be redirected to persecuted groups and an Australian development program will no longer be administered by Myanmar’s government bodies. Our formal relationship with Myanmar’s military, which Payne says was restricted to “non-combat areas”, is on hold. On Friday, the United Nations special envoy to Myanmar Christine Schraner Burgener called on the international community to step up and “denounce the actions by the military” over the coup that stole power from the nation’s democratically elected government. At least 50 protesters have been killed in increasing violent clashes with authorities. The US, UK and Canada have tightened restrictions on Myanmar’s army, their family members and other top leaders of the junta, but China and Russia aren’t ending their support.

China has delivered its plan to ban any “non-patriots” from holding political or government positions in Hong Kong, including the selection of the city’s next leader. It’s the latest move to consolidate China’s control over Hong Kong following last year’s national security law that ended the territory’s autonomy. Hong Kong’s chief executive Carrie Lam, who refused to step down after millions of Hong Kongers marched in protests, defended the measures that will further erode democracy there. The European Union has again warned Beijing to “consider the political and economic implications”. Overnight, China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi fronted his annual press conference and said “Hong Kong’s transition from chaos to governance is fully in the interests of all parties.”

After months in the making, 2 of the world’s most influential faith leaders have met to promote peace and unity. Pope Francis (84yo) and Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani (90yo), a senior leader in Shia Islam, met in Iraq on Saturday and condemned extremism in the name of religion. On the agenda: the persecution of Iraqi Christians, including at the hands of al-Qaeda and the Islamic State. In a statement following the meeting, Al-Sistani said Christian citizens should “live like all Iraqis in peace and security and with their full constitutional rights”. The meeting is said to be a landmark moment and could help ease relations between Shia Muslims and Iraq’s dwindling Christian minority. Pope Francis continues on his tour of the region, including a stop in Mosul, the northern former stronghold of IS.

After a series of dramatic teasers, the Sussexes’ tell-all sit-down with Oprah will air in the US at 2pm our time. It’s expected to cover everything from their marriage to their move to Los Angeles, Meghan’s experience in joining the Royal family, and the intense scrutiny she faced. Not covered are bullying complaints lodged by palace staff against Meghan – that dropped after the interview was taped. Amid all the drama, senior royals including Queen Elizabeth, William and Kate will pop up on tellies across the UK praising doctors and nurses just hours before Harry and Meghan ‘speak their truth’. Meghan and Harry aren’t being paid for the tell-all interview, but there are big bucks involved. US TV network CBS has reportedly paid between A$9-11 million for the rights. And with Network Ten part of the CBS family, we’ll be able to catch it on their channels at 7:30pm tonight.

If there’s one thing worse than losing to New Zealand, it’s losing out to them twice in one weekend… Australia handed over the Constellation Cup netball trophy for the first time in almost a decade. The Diamonds needed to win by 2 goals, but it wasn’t to be going down to the Silver Ferns – the current world champions – 45-43. It was a tough ask for the Aussies after taking to the court 2 days after 2 weeks of quarantine to play their first international matches in almost 500 days. And in the T20 men’s cricket, Australia yesterday lost the series decider by 7 wickets with 27 balls to spare. The stand out – Kiwi opener Martin Guptill who smashed 71 off 46 deliveries. Better luck next time…

There’s a massive mice plague, umm, plaguing NSW’s Central West. One farmer says the hungry rodent masses will eat him out of $500,000 in crop losses in the coming month. And he reckons he’s trapped about 35,000 of ‘em around his house in the last 10 weeks alone. Yikes…

Non-fungible tokens are another way to burn money. It’s a way to sell digital assets – like a tweet. And if you want to own Twitter founder Jack Dorsey’s original tweet from 2006 – “just setting up my twttr” – you’ll need more than US$2.5 million. Double yikes…

To assess how much unpaid work you do at home, the ABC’s put together a handy calculator that translates it into dollars. Because International Women’s Day seems as good as any to have a ‘conversation’ about it…

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