A week is a long time in politics. From Crikey last Wednesday:

I recommend still keeping Julia Gillard’s words in your memory bank. At the very least, the developments in the affair of the member for Dobell since that statement was made provide evidence that our Prime Minister lacks political nous.

Australia’s two speeds. Evidence this morning from the Australian Bureau of Statistics of the nation’s two speed economy. Building and construction activity is growing in the mining development states of Western Australia, Queensland and South Australia and falling elsewhere but for Canberra.

An international problem. The difficulties created by different growth rates in different areas are not unique to Australia. The United States has them with collapsing housing prices making it difficult to lure workers from where they have no job to parts of the country where they might find one. In Europe, Germany and much of the continent’s north have been growing while the “olive countries” of the south struggle with the problem of a strong Euro currency.

And now it seems that the north versus south is even dividing one of the olives. Umberto Bossi, the leader of the Northern League whose support keeps Silvio Berlusconi as Italian Prime Minister, has told his supporters to prepare for the creation of “Padania” — an independent state in the wealthy north that would stretch from the Alps to the River Po and incorporate Lombardy, Piedmont, the Veneto and other regions.

London’s Daily Telegraph reports:

During appearances at political rallies in the north of the country, Mr Bossi said “the Italian system is condemned to death” and said the only solution was an independent Padania.

He appeared at the rallies flanked by League supporters dressed in medieval knights’ chain mail and helmets – the party takes its inspiration from a confederation of Celtic tribes who united to fight an invasion force led by Frederick Barbarossa 800 years ago.

The prime minister took the unusual step of issuing a public rebuke to his erstwhile ally.

“I am sorry, but this time I cannot agree with my friend Umberto Bossi. I am deeply convinced that Italy will always exist,” he said in a statement.

He said that Italy’s north and south shared a “common history and a common destiny”.

The shrimp on the treadmill. Opposition politicians love nothing better than finding an apparent waste of government money on academic research so the shrimp on a treadmill experiments at the College of Charleston’s Grice Marine Laboratory have been turned by Republican Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK)  into something of an internet sensation. He used it as his prime example as, says National Public Radio, he “blasted the National Science Foundation, a major government funder of research, saying it squandered taxpayer money on questionable science projects.”

NPR gives the other side of the story and explains the purpose of the experiment was to measure how shrimp respond to changes in water quality. The researcher, biologist Lou Burnett, defending his work,  says the first treadmill was built by a colleague from scraps and was basically free, and the second was fancier and cost about $1,000. The senator’s report was misleading, says Burnett, “and it suggests that much money was spent on seeing how long a shrimp can run on a treadmill, which was totally out of context.”

And now for an important historical discovery. Perhaps the next spending controversy will centre on the scientists who have just reported in the prestigious Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America that they have discovered the origins of the wonderful yeast that gives lager its distinctive flavour.

The article, Microbe domestication and the identification of the wild genetic stock of lager-brewing yeast gives the credit to some round, orange-colored galls that infect beech trees in Patagonia. No answer has yet been provided as to how the yeast that can ferment at the lower temperatures that produce lager arrived in Europe back in the 16th century.

The ABC a late entrant. The Australian Broadcasting Commission has entered the contest with the NT News and the Cairns Post to become the crocodile news journal of record.

A crocodile named after Moamar Gaddafi may be given a new name to spare its life after Libyan rebels stormed Tripoli.

News out of Libya has worried keepers at the Hamat Gader crocodile farm on the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.

They fear the fall of the Libyan strongman could spell a sticky end for their own Gaddafi — a three-metre giant who weighs 230 kilograms.

In 2004, another of their crocodiles, called Yasser Arafat, died just weeks after the veteran Palestinian leader passed away in a Paris hospital, farm spokeswoman Meital Dana said.

“He died at the end of 2004, just a few weeks afterwards,” she said, confirming a story first reported in Israel’s Maariv newspaper.

Park officials are now looking into a new name in the hope it will spare Gaddafi the same fate, she said.

Peter Fray

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