Pandora

BITE THIS: a Midlands woman has her thumb bitten off in a Nottingham nightclub because she "invaded another clubber's dance space". Then there's another biting in London's Nightworld. Last Friday one child bit another at a well-known primary school in Hampstead, north London. Are we all turning into little Mike Tysons; or is this just another example of the Goldilocks syndrome? When something happens once, it's freaky. Twice is coincidental. The third time makes news.

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SO THE Yellow party's Old School wants to reduce the field running for Paddy Ashdown's job? How churlish; why not let the seven dwarves have their day in the sun? There are precedents for big fields: six started for the red party when Wilson resigned in 1976, and five for the blues when Hague got the nod in 1997. The Lib Dems will probably settle for someone with a realistic chance of delivering some sort of power-sharing deal with New Labour. Could it be a case of the third time's the charm here?

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FIRST IT'S Tara PT. Then Tom Parker Bowles. Now another pupil from Poshopolis's Slough Comp has been ejected for involvement with illicit narcotics. The 15-year-old Etonian was expelled after being caught in a Notting Hill drugs sting. This troika all have had contact with the future heir to the throne (pictured). Are they too fast?

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CAREER ADVICE: Prince William is considering attending Oxford. He's bright enough, and one doesn't imagine the interview presenting insuperable problems. Those look to be elsewhere - especially around students' extracurricular activities. Several of the future heir's pals have been involved with the fast-track, hard-partying, high-living Oxford University Assassins' club, where illict chemical refreshment often comes with the turf. There's real danger here. Have the Windsors' advisors learned nothing from recent events? Sandhurst suddenly looks a much better bet.

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ALAN CLARK, the Tory answer to Hugh Heffner, has money on Jackie `Bashful' Ballard in the Lib Dem race. "You're the only one with balls," Clark told Bashful in a commons encounter, during which he admitted backing her at 25-1. "I hope you're not going to donate your winnings to (Conservative) Central Office," Bashful snapped back. Clark's (tragically unprintable) reply suggests a very hard no.

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WINNING WAYS continue here at The Independent. Kudos for Michael Jackson, who won this year's prestigious Glenfiddich Best Drinks Journalist award. Here's mud in your column, matey!

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LIKE CRICKET? Then you'll love The Twelfth Man. That's the tag of Billy Birmingham, a Sydney-based music biz pony-tail who has sold more than a million copies of his spoof commentaries It's Just Not Cricket. "Richie Benaud has one of the weirdest voices I've ever heard," Birmingham says. "It sounds as if someone squashed it. His bottom lip's got a life of its own." By turns surreal, soporific and Rabelaisian, this is one for the boys of summer.

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CELEBRITY STAMPEDE: Christie Brinkley, the model and rock chick, is the latest to jump aboard the VIP bandwagon bound for the Balkans. Gwyneth Paltrow is the latest star considering making the trip; Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder and Luther Vandross have signed up to do a benefit for the kids of Kosovo. But it's being held in Munich, so no-one could accuse the trio of a cheap hype in others' misery.

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FUTURE OLYMPICS may showcase cultural events alongside sporting contests according to the Greek government, which will host the 2004 Olympiad in Athens. The idea revives part of the original Olympic ethic, in which Greek city-states offered uncompetitive artsy events alongside track and field contests. The idea was tried in Montreal in 1976 and Moscow in 1980 - but only with a regional emphasis. The Greek Culture Ministry is trying to persuade the Australian organisers of Sydney 2000 to follow suit. Synchronised sinking of the amber nectar, anyone?

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

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