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As for the backlinks and PR crawl there hasn't been one of those in weeks which could well be another good reason.
The links that were already pointing to my friends site there may have been been there for years.
Most are over 5PR
My ranking has moved back up to pre Florida position (#1 for two words) when Google showed I had over 70+ sites linking to me. Now of course Google only see's 6 sites linking to me!
Seems like I want to say links have become less important, but then I see a company with 24,000 back links using a template page getting to the top of the list.
If G does increase the time between Link/PR updates surely that will result in the searches being that little bit more out of date.
They update PR and backlinks internally on a very different schedule to what is made available publically. It is possible that the stir in the SERPS last weekend was due to an internal update in PR and backlinks...