Funny... this could almost describe an article on a client site, except for one aspect. The article wasn't syndicated... it was completely original and very good... but it did/does appear "on many websites and even several blogs." It went from #2 to the mid thirties (and now has dropped out entirely as another page on our site, not nearly as appropriate, has shown up in the twenties). So, Google may be treating dupes more harshly, but, for the first time that I've seen in a while, they've gotten the identification wrong, at least in this case.
Also, Google's reranking of one-word terms is continuing, and they're playing around with what appear to be different slots for different verticals for which the one-word terms apply. This is very similar to what we've been seeing with slots in Universal Search for news results, video results, etc, where they're experimenting with different placements.
[edited by: Robert_Charlton at 8:53 pm (utc) on Mar. 2, 2008]