Just change a few names. The Australian House of Reps and Senate chambers instead of the Congressional ones. Canberra for Washington.

Hey presto. Our current politics accurately described.

An impossible choice. I’ve thrown in the towel. No daily winner of the Leadership Beat-Up Award. Just too many conflicting entries. From Laurie Oakes’ two bob each way on last night’s Nine news to Michelle Grattan’s “nobody knows what’s happening” this morning on Radio National, from Tony Wright and Mark Kenny with their feverish MPs turning their eyes to Simon Crean in the Melbourne Age to The Telegraph’s “Rudd will lead but only if he is asked”. All worthy winners in their own ways.

Things of beauty. I didn’t get past the Box Brownie myself and am now struggling with snaps using the iPhone. The lack of photography skills is something I regret, because experience has taught me pictures regularly tell a story far better than my words can. And they are capable of showing a thing of beauty in a way my words cannot describe. Like this just-announced winner of the nature section of the Sony World Photography Awards.

You will find all the 2013 award winners here.

Memories of the father. I suppose you could say that Gina Rinehart definitely has made it. She is the subject of a lengthy biographical piece in the current New Yorker that in passing gives us a reminder of the man who started the family fortune she has parlayed into becoming one of the richest women in the world.

“Unlike his daughter, Hancock actively engaged the press. He told his story to any reporter who would listen. He even started two newspapers, as megaphones for his political views. He was an ardent Western Australia secessionist. Historically a poor, backward, isolated state—Robert Hughes described it, in “The Fatal Shore,” as “a colony with a body the size of Europe and the brain of an infant”—Western Australia could become, with its new mining wealth, Hancock believed, a paradise of free enterprise if it could only escape the stifling grasp of the eastern establishment in Sydney and Melbourne. Hancock wanted to use nuclear weapons for mining and for dredging new ports along the northwest coast, but there was no bloody chance of getting such bold ideas approved by the timid federal bureaucracy, in Canberra. He didn’t fear radioactive fallout any more than he believed asbestos exposure caused asbestosis or the cancer mesothelioma. The blue-asbestos mine that Hancock ran in the nineteen-thirties and forties at Wittenoom is thought to have caused hundreds of asbestos-related deaths, many of them among its largely Aboriginal workforce, but Hancock never accepted the medical connection, let alone responsibility. He held an extreme version of a common attitude among white Australians of his generation toward native people. He once told a television interviewer that the “problem” of “half-castes” could be solved by luring people to a central welfare office, to “dope” their water in order to sterilize them and thus wipe out the race.”

Disclosure: Richard Farmer was involved in starting one of those Lang Hancock newspapers.

A new level for reality television. Move over, Big Brother with its titillating hints. The real thing is on the way. Britain’s Channel 4 has unveiled a new documentary that helps two 40-year-olds lose their virginity. And to provide a bit of balance, reports The Guardian, the broadcaster will mark the Islamic holy month, which this year falls in July and August, with a nightly five-minute program from a range of British Muslims on how they cope with Ramadan, as well as marking daily early morning prayers.

News and views noted along the way.

  • Daniel Barenboim on Beethoven and the quality of courage — “One could paraphrase much of the work of Beethoven by saying that suffering is inevitable, but the courage to fight it renders life worth living.” And you can listen to him play here.
  • Iraq 10 years later: the deadly consequences of spin — “Those who questioned the case for war have won the fight over history. But that won’t bring back the tens of thousands of lives lost.”
  • Cyprus: the next blunder — “The decision to tax all Cypriot bank deposits … is a huge blunder. In the unlikely event that all goes well, the government will receive a bit of cash — but not enough to cover the loan generously offered by its European partners — and the Cypriot banking system will be history. The alternative is a massive bank crisis in many Eurozone countries — a huge blow to the euro, maybe even a fatal one.”
  • What makes dogs dogs — “Dogs are for love, affection, and making us better humans.”
  • Global poverty is shrinking
  • Fresh off the 3D printer: Henry Segerman’s mathematical sculptures — “A research fellow at the University of Melbourne has found a sneaky way to convert math haters to math lovers. He turns complex geometries into art.”
  • How the federal budget is just like your family budget (or not)
  • Time to bet on Cuba — “… new circumstances offer President Obama a rare opportunity to turn the page of history from an outdated Cold War approach to Cuba to a new era of constructive engagement. In his second term in office, he should place a big bet by investing political capital in defrosting relations, an approach that will advance U.S. interests in a stable, prosperous and democratic Cuba.”
  • Sorting out the mammogram debate: who should get screened when?
  • Twitter was act one — “Considering that he invented Twitter and is about to launch another potential game changer with his new company, Square, Jack Dorsey has one of the lowest profiles in tech.”