What happened to Mary? I speculated in Saturday’s Crikey Breakfast Media Wrap (that’s right, we’ve gone seven days a week and you can catch up here on what you missed) that our lapsed Catholic Prime Minister who now prays as an Anglican might not really be the best person to take up in the Vatican the lobbying cause of the Blessed Mary MacKillop’s sainthood.

I notice today that the Deputy Opposition Leader Julie Bishop has similar reservations and has questioned whether the good Kevin really should be putting in a supportive word for Mary when he meets His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI in Rome on Thursday.

But it was probably Laurie Oakes with his Sunday morning Nine Network interview who was responsible for a change in the spinning. Laurie had great fun making fun of this latest planned Kevin Rudd intervention on the world stage — and subsequent briefings to journalists on the purpose of the overseas trip beginning today left Mary off the list of things to be accomplished.

Navy to re-install barrels on board

The cobra strikes journalists . The virtual collapse in Britain of Cobra Beer, with creditors left owed some £75 million, has brought forth a very honest appraisal in the London Times by columnist Sathnam Sanghera on the failings of the journalistic profession which touted the Cobra story so heavily for so many years as an example of the marketing and financial brilliance of its entrepreneurial creator Lord Bilimoria.

No-one seems to have picked up, until it was too late, that for all Cobra’s glitzy marketing efforts — it spent £40 million on marketing over 20 years — people rarely drank the stuff unless in Indian restaurants, that the company had never been profitable and that, in the year to July 2007, the latest for which accounts are publicly available, Cobra lost £13 million.

Indeed, the story of Cobra highlights a number of awkward truths for the business world, the first of which is this: business journalists rarely get the full truth about companies. The fact is that, despite all the awards we enjoy giving ourselves, with the exception of one or two individuals, we failed to predict almost all the crises enveloping us: the Ponzi schemes, the frauds, the credit crunch, everything in fact, including Cobra. Not that it’s our fault: journalists are only as good as their sources and if there’s one thing we’ve learnt this year it is that the people running businesses are as clueless as everyone else.

The second painful truth revealed by the Cobra debacle is that the business world is hugely susceptible to the influence of public relations. This is, in part, because business is overrun by PR people — and Cobra was more image-obsessed than most, announcing plans to sponsor this year’s Bafta awards as part of a £8.4 million PR and marketing drive only months before it went into administration — and, in part, because business is a bit boring and a good story, such as Cobra’s, gets seized upon.

Smooth backs favoured over hairy. The startling news this morning is that women do not like men with hairy backs. And here I’ve been for all these years thinking it was just because I’m balding, bearded and fat! The breakthrough research, published in the Northern Territory News, was conducted by Nad’s, the hair removal experts.

New Zealand MPs have Chinese friends too . Australia is not the only country where Labor MPs have a tendency to have close ties to Chinese business people. It was reported at the weekend that police have charged a multi-millionaire businessman, who was granted New Zealand citizenship in controversial circumstances, with making false declarations on immigration papers and using fake identities to obtain a passport.

The New Zealand Herald said Yong Ming Yan — also known as Bill Liu, Yang Liu and William Yan — was supported in his citizenship bid last year by Labour MPs Dover Samuels and Chris Carter, and National MP Pansy Wong. Departmental officials had opposed the citizenship application, with one of the grounds being that the applicant had two names, two birth dates and two passports, but their advice was over ruled with ministerial discretion.