Pandora

TOP SPIN. The GM food innovator Monsanto showed its customary fingertip control of the media when its PR flacks heard of a story perceived as dangerous. The corporation manufactures a genetically engineered milk hormone called rBGH (recombinant bovine growth hormone). Farmers inject rBGH into cattle every two weeks to increase milk production. But activists have expressed concern that rBGH may increase the risk of cancer among consumers. Two Tampa-based journalists taped a segment reporting this. Monsanto pitched its side of the story - and management at WTVT, the local Fox station, made the duo rewrite the story 83 times. That's right, 83.

The Murdoch-owned WTVT then offered Steve Wilson and Jane Akre some pounds 100,000 to quit, on condition that both reporters remain silent about the incident. They refused - and the matter is now heading to court. Fascinating fact: later this year the EU moratorium on the use of rBGH is up for review.

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BANKING TECHNOLOGY rocks! Thirty per cent of those entrusted with increasing credit-card security have forged someone else's signature in a credit- card transaction. An NCR survey at Frankfurt's European Financial Services Summit also revealed that 23 per cent of the fraud-busters had asked a friend to forge theirs. Life in plastic, it's fantastic.

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OH, AND you've got to hand it to Barbie. Prosthetic specialists at Northern Carolina's Duke University are using the doll's legs to create artificial fingers for amputees. The legs are trimmed to fit each patient - they work successfully because the flexible joints in Barbie's legs allow the fingers to bend.

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MINNIE DRIVER (pictured) put the hype about Martine McCutcheon into perspective at the party for An Ideal Husband this week. As the ex-EastEnder appeared at the star's table at the Waldorf Hotel, photographers pestered Driver to have her picture taken with McCutcheon. A baffled Minnie replied: "Who?"

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MICK HUCKNALL is said to be offering his support to help the falling star Simon Le Bon rekindle his career. Lucky old Simon. It's enough to drive you to the opera - if they ever get it open again.

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BORIS YELTSIN talks war but wants peace - in his private life, at least. He's reportedly bought a serene pounds 53m villa in Cap d'Antibes.

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CHRISSIE HYNDE, the fiery rocker and animal rights activist, narrowly avoided questioning by the gendarmerie this week. Hynde, a driving force behind the memorial concert for her pal Linda McCartney, exploded when she arrived at Home House, a smart West End club known for the hollowed- out elephant leg in its lobby, which is used as an umbrella stand. "This is part of a dead animal," Hynde told a crowd that included George Michael, Tom Jones and Sinead O'Connor. "I'm going to bury it in Portman Square." She emptied out the umbrellas, and headed for the exit - but found her path blocked by security men. The situation was resolved after a tense 20-minute stand-off. No word from Home House about whether they'll go out on a limb with exotic furnishings in future.

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WE INTERRUPT this column with a newsbreak. Derek Draper, of Lobbygate fame, has been fired by Talk Radio. Apparently he telephoned another show on air from Amsterdam in the company of a delightful working girl called Claudia. Has Talk Radio's boss Kelvin MacKenzie, no stranger to the sexier side of journalism, lost his sense of humour? Say it ain't so, Kelv.

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OUR NUMBER one guy's number one chick likes to keep busy. Mother... lawyer... consort - how does Cherie find enough hours in the day? So who better to speak at the 15 May Woman Lawyer Forum organised by Blair Communications (no relation, we're assured). Blair advertises the event as a "stress- free zone". A blissful contrast to Downing Street, or what?

Contact Pandora by e-mail: pandora@ independent.co.uk

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