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The Independent Culture
ON SUNDAY, fresh from leading last week's anti-British street demonstrations in Santiago, Senator Evelyn Matthei arrived in this country on a mission to free General Pinochet. She told Pandora yesterday that her group, Chilean Women for Dignity, wants "to make life impossible for the representatives of the British Government in Chile". Matthei is the daughter of General Fernando Matthei, who was head of Chile's air force in Pinochet's junta from 1978 onwards. Although she claims that she urges her followers to be non-violent, Senator Matthei admits that she has advocated making our diplomats' life hell by blowing horns outside the embassy and voicing anger over Pinochet's detention. At the same time, Matthei warns that Chile's fragile democracy is in danger of being torn apart by the violence raging between left and right. Doesn't she understand that General Pinochet's arrest came in response to Spain's official request for his extradition? "Everybody knows that the British Government does have the instruments to set him free," Matthei told Pandora, adding, "I don't understand why people want to be so ethical all of a sudden." Doesn't our Foreign Office have any "ethical instruments" that could at least put this woman on a plane back to her native country, asap?

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A FILM about the former "Ginger Spice", Geri Halliwell, will be the latest project of the acclaimed documentary film-maker Molly Dineen, Pandora has learnt. Noted for her cinema-verite studies of the Angel Tube station, London Zoo, and the Army, Dineen was in New York last week to begin shooting a movie that will undoubtedly give us a refreshingly realistic view of Geri's rather surreal appointment as the latest UN Goodwill Ambassador.

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IS PANDORA alone in finding Richard Branson's (pictured) incessant efforts to promote himself asinine, even desperate? Perhaps not, for the latest issue of Business Week includes a major report on the uncertain future of Branson's Virgin Group and concludes: "It's crucial to the Virgin brand that Branson continue to be seen as a hero." No problem in the past, but after other recent hard-hitting articles about Branson's jumbled, secretive financial empire in the Financial Times and The Economist, the tide definitely seems to be turning against Branson - the human brand. No wonder he published his own autobiography a few weeks ago, painting himself and his past in self-serving gloss.

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OMINOUSLY, TOM Bower, Britain's top financial investigative journalist, may now devote his next expose to Branson. Bower doesn't write hagiography, and Branson cannot fancy joining the list of previous subjects, who include Mohamed al-Fayed, Tiny Rowland and Robert Maxwell. Contrary to yesterday's Evening Standard, however, Bower is still not committed to a Branson book. He told Pandora yesterday, "I've taken out the cuttings and I'm having a look. But I don't like to write under pressure. All these stories may put me off." Let us hope not.

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BOWER ALSO pointed out an intriguing coincidence between his book on al-Fayed and Penny Junor's new biography of Prince Charles. In Junor's book, one of the Queen's "courtiers" is quoted as saying to Her Majesty: "Would you rather have her body brought back in a Harrods van?" However, on page 433 of Bower's literary excavation of al-Fayed, Prince Charles remarks to Lady Sarah McCorquodale, aboard the flight to Paris to recover the Princess's body: "One thing's for certain. She's not going into London in a green carriage drawn by horses." This obviously refers to the Harrods promotional horse-drawn buggy, used to attract tourists to the Knightsbridge department store. Pandora wonders whether the unnamed"courtier" quoted in Junor's book could, by any chance, have been Prince Charles himself?

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"I ENJOY a lunch of beautifully mashed potatoes and two hot sausages," intoned Lord Boston of Faversham last week, in the House of Lords. In his role as the Lords' Chairman of Committees, Faversham was replying to Lord Beaumont of Whitley on the origin of pig meat served in the Lords' restaurants. Some peers felt that Faversham was taking the catering issue too lightly, but Faversham denied this. "We do not make much of these matters in your Lordships' House, but it happens that my arms bear the wild boar." No, seriously.

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