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The Independent Culture
THE HIGH court damages won by sultry Nicole Kidman and her husband Tom Cruise over tabloid rumours suggesting Tom was gay and their marriage just a convenient sham must be a great relief. "Our kids have got to go to school, their parents love each other, and it's as simple as that," Nicole told the current issue of US mag Ladies Home Journal, before the high court ruling was announced. "Anyone who wants to say otherwise can go to court." The magazine journalist, who interviewed Nicole some months ago on the set of her new film Practical Magic, also spoke with co-star, Hollywood's favourite girl-next-door Sandra Bullock about the malignant gossip that has plagued Tom."It's a load of crap," Bullock said. "Tom and Nicole do have a secret everyone wants to know - they've found out what makes their relationship work." Obviously, the couple that sue together stay together.

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WHILE VIEWING Channel 4's October 17 programme on drugs, Altered Minds, Pandora was struck by the supreme confidence of anti-cannabis campaigner Phil Woolas, Labour MP for Oldham East and Saddleworth. Some may recall that Woolas fought the 1995 by-election in Littleborough and Saddleworth by making consistent attacks on his Liberal Democrat opponent's views on drugs. In the face of all the evidence shown on the Channel 4 programme, Woolas declared that cannabis was addictive and that criminals hooked on the drug were responsible for numerous crimes in this country. When Pandora rang him yesterday, Woolas declared that the programme "wasn't objective" and that the makers had simply not shown the anti-cannabis evidence in their possession. And what evidence could Woolas offer Pandora? "Just ask any policeman." But remember not to ask the ones in Woolas's own area who could not offer any evidence to support his claims.

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ON SUNDAY, Newcastle United fans will be able to order the club's Christmas hamper simply by lifting their telephones. But perhaps a bit of caution should be exercised this year, in view of the boasts of disgraced directors Douglas Hall and Freddie Shepherd, about ripping off fans. Although the hampers come with evocative names such as The Milburn (named after toon hero Jackie Milburn and costing pounds 75) or the Premiership Collection for a mere pounds 205, closer examination does reveal a somewhat dismal selection of treats. These include a box of Scottish biscuits, wheat wafers with sesame seeds, some Wensleydale cheese and, most enticingly, Newcastle United's own brand of tea bags. What, no half-time oranges?

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Earlier this month, Harden's Restaurant Guide roasted Sir Terence Conran's restaurant group for the quality of its food. Chatting with Pandora at Tuesday's Premier Crew awards, one staff member of Conran's empire dismissed Harden's views as inconsequential. "They use people with regional accents in their radio adverts," she sniffed. What delicious reasoning! And how fortunate that Conran's next major launch will take place - not in Newcastle or Leeds - but the capital of France.

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JANET GEORGE, former head press officer of the Countryside Alliance, takes up her new post as head of communications at the British Horse Society (BHS) next Monday. George helped organise this year's Countryside March in London which took a strong stance against a right to roam. George's own position was made particularly clear in August when she said: "Ramblers are only of use when we run out of pheasants to shoot." However, her new employers at the BHS have adopted a more friendly policy towards the right to roam and frequently liaise with the Ramblers' Association. Nicola Gregory at the BHS Press Office told Pandora: "In the PR business you work for your client. I am sure Janet will fight for the cause, and I am sure she will be outspoken about it." Of that there can be little doubt.

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FORMER HOSTAGE Terry Waite (pictured), whose solo diplomatic missions to the Middle East used to worry the Foreign Office so much, is a far more modest man these days. Speaking to Pandora at Wednesday's Dorchester book launch for Memories, a collection of celebrity photographs and reminiscences, in aid of the Azheimer's Disease Society, he mentioned his 88-year-old mother. "Conversations with my mother are pretty unintelligible, but then so are conversations with me. So we get on rather well actually."

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