Pandora

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The Independent Culture
RATHER THAN red buses or black cabs, the Millennium Dome looks likely to be the emblem chosen to symbolise Britain to overseas investors. London: the Millennium City is the title of an advertisement appearing in the latest issue of The New Yorker magazine. The Dome is the centre- piece of the ad, which runs: "London on the brink of the millennium is more brilliant and exciting, more experimental, than ever before. Fascination with the coming century has led to a rash of intriguing projects in the city, and the country beyond. They promise to make Britain, and its starring city London, the world's most foremost destination. Britain: You don't know the half of it." Indeed, if a day out in the "intriguing" Dome is to cost as much as pounds 22, as has recently emerged, then many people will continue to know less than half about the millennium experience.

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THE KABBALAH, a complex branch of Judaism whose followers include Elizabeth Taylor, Roseanne Barr and Barbra Streisand, is finding itself under scrutiny. The cult, based on searching the Bible for hidden meanings, is housed at the Kabbalah Learning Centre (KLC) in Los Angeles, and has had some bizarre rituals already ascribed to it, such as that of swinging a chicken above the head. More serious findings, regarding high divorce rates among Kabbalah members, surface in a report to be published soon by the US magazine Self. And evidence of KLC misdemeanours has come to light in past reports of vulnerable people being pressured to buy into the KLC experience. A US task force dealing with investigations into cults suggests that the KLC once obtained a record of Jewish employees at a New York City government agency, in order to apply some spiritual persuasion to buy overpriced religious items. The KLC deny the allegations, but it remains to be seen if their swinging chickens eventually come home to roost.

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PANDORA SALUTES the wag who staged a press conference for the Security and Intelligence Committee in the Cabinet Office last week. The Committee, chaired by the former Cabinet Minister Tom King, and charged with overseeing MI5, MI6 and GCHQ, faced the press in a room decorated with two well chosen prints. One read: "China of Today: the Yellow Peril"; the other was a picture of an owl, a recognised symbol of watchfulness. A press officer for the group explained to Pandora that the prints were there because they were "atmospheric and historic". And comic.

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PHILIP GOULD, Tony Blair's opinion pollster, had a well publicised disagreement with a colleague of Pandora's last week. Speaking on last Wednesday's Newsnight, Gould, author of The Unfinished Revolution - How the Modernisers Saved the Labour Party, accused The Independent's John Rentoul of lying about Peter Mandelson's wish to see Blair as Labour Party leader in the days after John Smith's death in 1994. Gould maintains that Mandelson was torn between Blair and Brown for leader, and did not take kindly to John's suggestion to the contrary. However, there is a happy ending. In the acknowledgements to his book, which is published at the end of this month, Gould thanks John for "allowing me access to his notes for the Blair period", if not, we might add, for drawing the same conclusion.

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CHARLTON HESTON (pictured) has chosen to share his views with fellow Americans on "inappropriate behaviour". The subject of the movie star's considered opinion is not President Clinton's problems with Zippergate; they concern something much closer to home, namely, urinating on your own lawn. According to Variety magazine, Heston wrote to the "Dear Abby" column of the San Francisco Chronicle to reassure a lady who had written in about her husband's practice of this antisocial habit. The star conceded that the behaviour was inappropriate, but "the fact remains that all men pee outdoors".

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ON FRIDAY, the Queen opened an pounds 82m factory for Motorola in Swindon. Proud staff lined the proposed royal route round the new factory, which will make transmitters for mobile phones. While waiting for the Queen, who was due to finish the 100,000th transmitter on the factory floor, one executive decided to make a quick call on her mobile phone. Somewhat ironically, while surrounded by all those transmitters, the staff member failed to get a signal; her shouts of "Hello... hello..." were to no avail.

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