A piece of fat has helped solve a 558-million-year-old riddle and looks set to shoot a university student to scientific stardom.
When Professor Jochen Brocks received a call from a Russian student saying he wanted to use his Canberra lab to pull fat molecules from an ancient Ediacaran Biota fossil and prove it was the earth's first animal, he thought the idea was mad.
No scientist had been able to decipher what the weathered remnants, called Dickinsonia, were since their discovery in hills 650 kilometres north of Adelaide in 1946.
"This is the holy grail of paleontology and I had a student calling me from Moscow saying he had a solution," Prof Brocks told AAP.
None of this mattered to Ilya Bobrovskiy, the young geologist told Prof Brocks he knew of fossils so well preserved in a remote area of northwest Russia that the organic tissue still contained molecules of cholesterol, a type of fat that is the hallmark of animal life.
"I just couldn't believe that this exists anywhere in the world, I mean these things are really old, 558 million years old," Prof Brocks said.
If true, the findings could settle a feud raging between scientists over the strange 1.4 metre long leaf-shaped organism - was it a giant single-celled amoeba, a lichen, fungus, an animal or as some believe, a failed evolutionary experiment?
"I thought this is a student with no idea of how (fossils) work, it's a completely crazy idea," Prof Brocks said.
"But he struck me as very smart. I'll let him try it and when the project fails I'll give his something else."
The 27-year-old didn't fail, with Prof Brocks' backing he was helicoptered into the bear and mosquito infested White Sea region where he hung from 100-metre high cliffs to dig out the fossils.
"The data he got was beautiful, it's full of fossil cholesterol. That thing was an animal, this is the best evidence yet," Prof Brocks said.
"He's landed a number one hit and it's spreading across the country."
His Indiana Jones-like efforts have also developed a new approach to study the ancient fossils, which hold the key between the old world dominated by bacteria and the world of large animals that emerged 540 million years ago during the 'Cambrian explosion'.
The PhD student is now working on a new research project with the Australian National University in the Northern Territory.
His research is published in the journal Science.
Scientists say they've confirmed that these Dickinsonia fossils from more than 500 million years ago are traces of an animal, which makes that creature one of the earliest known. (Ilya Bobrovskiy/Australian National University)
Source: Associated Press
Ms Ardern has seen the final report - on which she's based her decision to strip Ms Whaitiri of her portfolios - but the public will have to wait until the Department of Internal Affairs (DIA) has been through it before they get to see it.
She will not say what happened, only that Ms Whaitiri still disputes the allegation against her.
But Ms Ardern has promised some of that detail will be released in due course.
"I've asked DIA to prepare a version of the report that can be released in order to address some of those outstanding questions."
Ms Whaitiri's associate portfolios in agriculture, Crown-Māori relations, forestry and local government will all fall to lead ministers.
Mana MP Kris Faafoi, who recently became the Minister of Broadcasting when Clare Curran resigned from Cabinet, will pick up the full customs portfolio.
It avoids a full Cabinet reshuffle.
Ms Ardern said she would work with Ms Whaitiri to address her staffing matters, but made it clear no other formal grievances had been laid.
"I'm going to work with the member, at this point we are talking more about managing employees.
"Support through training and so on, human resource management."
Ms Whaitiri remains an electorate MP and will keep her role as co-chair of Labour's Māori caucus.
Fellow co-chair Willie Jackson could not be reached for comment, but one of its members, Labour MP Paul Eagle, said he was pleased remained at the helm.
"She's certainly served her weight in gold over the last 11 months, and I'd hope to see her stay."
Senior Cabinet Minister Andrew Little backed the Ms Ardern's call on the matter.
"I haven't seen the report but what I do know of Jacinda Ardern is that she is scrupulously fair, she has waited until she's obviously had information and has made her judgement and I stand with her on that."
Labour MPs Ginny Anderson and Greg O'Connor agreed.
Green MP Gareth Hughes felt for his Parliamentary colleague.
"There's always the personal reaction, and I feel sorry for her as an individual. Obviously though the decision was one for [the] prime minister."
In Napier, in the heart of the Ikaroa-Rawhiti electorate, many voters said they remained supportive of Ms Whaitiri. Others backed Ms Ardern.
Meghan Markle was joined by her mother on Thursday to launch a cookbook aimed at raising money for the victims of London's Grenfell Tower fire.
The former actress from the United States, who married Prince Harry and is now the Duchess of Sussex, hosted the reception at Kensington Palace beside her mother, Doria Ragland, to support the cookbook titled "Together."
The book celebrates the power of cooking to strengthen communities and bring people together.
Prince Harry also attended the event.
The book was inspired by Markle's visit to the Hubb Community Kitchen in North Kensington, which could only open a few days a week for lack of funds.
The cookbook features recipes from women in the community who prepare food to help and heal.
The dishes include coconut chicken curry, aubergine masala, caramelized plum upside-down cake and spiced mint tea.
The 2017 Grenfell Tower fire killed 72 people and prompted nationwide calls for tightening building codes and increasing firefighting capabilities for large apartment blocks.
It was a family affair at the launch, with Meghan’s mum also mingling with women in the community whose recipes fill the book titled Together.
Source: Associated Press
There’s no show without punch, and although Winston Peters did not say much, he said enough. Unlike the Prime Minister who was something of a disappointment.
Last Sunday’s carefully stage-managed display of unity by Jacinda Ardern and her deputy was not so much a case of fake news as one of fabricated news.
It was somehow befitting of the barmy politics emanating daily from the Government benches in Parliament that the coalition Government should half-celebrate its 12-month birthday having been in the job for just on 11 months.
A carefully-chosen audience was corralled on Auckland’s AUT campus to hear — or rather endure — Ardern taking close to half-an-hour to spell out her Government’s 12 priorities.
Source: 1 NEWS
Admittedly, it is difficult to inject excitement into a discussion of the virtues of intended alterations to the structure of the various Cabinet committees which meet weekly in the Beehive.
But one further priority would be finding a new speech writer for the Prime Minister before someone falls asleep and drowns in the verbiage. Or simply dies of boredom.
The said wordsmith's job is probably safe, however. The strict instruction from upon high would have been not to include the merest morsel of anything that those listening might find interesting — and which would detract from the whole purpose of the occasion, specifically the need for the Government to project an image as rock solid unified.
The political pantomime had one overriding objective — convincing an increasingly sceptical public that although Ardern and Peters might not always be on the same page, they are still capable of trading smiles on the same platform after 11 months of jostling one another.
While the Labour-New Zealand coalition has witnessed sporadic bouts of internal guerrilla warfare in recent times and principally on New Zealand First’s part, it is vastly over-dramatising things to suggest this so far occasional rebellion could become full-blown civil war.
So there was no chance of Peters going AWOL last Sunday. It would, however, have helped the coalition’s cause considerably had he uttered the immortal words "of course she's driving the car" during the earlier stages of the developing friction between the partners in Government. He was unwilling on Sunday to stretch the metaphor any further. But when it comes to back-seat driving or driving backwards, Peters is a master.
He has not taken on board any perceivable role as a back-room fixer for the coalition despite such a role having the capacity to alleviate some of the huge pressures weighing on Ardern’s shoulders.
He has instead exploited her inexperience as Labour’s leader and the fact that she spreads herself thin to bolster his party’s leverage within the coalition.
It is such game-play good that threatens the Government’s stability. It is not so much that the partners might clash over policy. As Ardern repeatedly notes, the coalition comprises three parties. There is always going to be disagreement over policy.
What matters is how such disputes are handled by the respective party leaderships - John Armstrong
What matters is how such disputes are handled by the respective party leaderships; whether, to use the parlance, they act on the basis of good faith and no surprises.
Ardern’s response to suggestions of disunity is to pretend there is none when she is so questioned. That is not credible.
She has now sought to brush off those claims made by her opponents by creating a distraction through repackaging her party’s priorities and relaunching them as a "coalition blueprint" under the title of Our Plan.
It would not have taken Labour’s spin-doctors long to dream up that title. It is the exact same one as used by National during the John Key-Bill English years in their similar quest to turn New Zealand into Utopia.
The only difference between Labour’s and National’s respective efforts was that Key was dismissive of such "vision documents". They might be useful in listing goals. They rarely provide detail of the means to be adopted to reach those goals. The day-to-day pressures of political life inevitably result in the prime minister of the day focusing heavily on short-term political management. Concentrating on the long-term can always be postponed to another day.
National’s various versions of vision have accordingly sunk without trace. That experience would have been a factor in Simon Bridges’ acidic observation that there was nothing in the long list of platitudes, banalities and truisms in Ardern’s blueprint which he would find hard to swallow. He isn’t wrong.
The producers of Ardern’s massive missive may have feared the same fate awaits their product as afflicted National’s equally turgid equivalent, creation.
That hurts. But Bridges is making the pertinent point that Ardern’s claim that her plan amounts to a "shared vision" of the three parties in her governing arrangement is utterly meaningless.
All it says is that the three-party grouping stretches so far across the political system that National can be accommodated with room to spare.
That makes it hard to keep the whole show on the road at the best of times.
With ministers falling like nine-pins, bureaucrats thinking nothing of splashing out $1.5 million on a justice policy summit and private consultants growing fat on the tidy sums to be made from servicing the plethora of working parties and task forces doing the work that career public servants are arguably better left to do, Labour is fast losing the plot.
But never mind. Ardern and her colleagues got what they wanted. That was a minute or two of coalition unity at the top of the six o’clock news. Given Labour’s growing malaise, that’s priceless.
The Prime Minister gave details of the Government plan during a speech in Auckland.
Source: 1 NEWS