Pandora

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The Independent Culture
WITH THE nation's attention focussed on Rupert Murdoch's plans for English football, there is not much time left to worry about what the omnivorous tycoon is doing in the rest of the world.

Take Russia, for example. As we reported in this newspaper on Thursday, one of the key power brokers in Moscow is Boris Berezovsky, who influenced Yeltsin's decision to sack his cabinet and re-appoint Viktor Chernomyrdin as prime minister, then suddenly seemed to disown them both.

According to the New York Times, Berezovsky is "a capitalist in the image of Commodore Vanderbilt"; a 1996 issue of Forbes profiled him under the headline "Godfather of the Kremlin?" and investigated alleged links with the Russian mafia.

What is the Murdoch connection? Last spring Murdoch spent about $80 million buying control of a large Russian telecommunications company called PLD Telekom, then sold a large portion of his shares to one of Berezovsky's companies. In July, Rupert invited Berezovsky to his annual Sun Valley media fest. Perhaps we'll be seeing a joint bid for Dynamo Moscow soon?

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TONIGHT OLD Labour and New Labour will be mixing in style at the Red Fort restaurant on Dean Street for a charity evening on behalf of One World Action. Glenys Kinnock is the anti-poverty charity's president, the Red Fort is owned by Amin Ali and guests will include New Labour stalwarts Lord Hollick and Helena Kennedy QC along with "special guest" Neil Kinnock (pictured). When Pandora rang to ask if the evening required formal attire, a spokesperson said, "No, I don't think so. Can you imagine Neil Kinnock in a dinner jacket?" Who wants to imagine?

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WAS JESUS an Egyptian? That's the contention of Ahmed Osman, whose new book Out of Egypt: The Roots of Christianity Revealed was launched last week at an Egyptian embassy reception that Pandora attended. In chatting with the author, the question was raised whether Britain's most famous Egyptian, Mohamed al-Fayed, subscribed to Osman's theory. Osman said, he doubted that, since Mr Fayed "has a very Orthodox Muslim background. He doesn't have a cultural background in philosophy or history". By this point it was clear that no alcohol was going to be served. Was the Egyptian Jesus also a Baptist?

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WHAT IS the glossiest luxury goods catalogue in the UK? No, not Harrods or Harvey Nichols, but the new Chelsea Football Club Official Merchandise Brochure. From gold jewellery to bed linen, adult luggage to infant wear, golf balls to frying pans, the catalogue offers consumers the opportunity to live the total "Blue" lifestyle. There are two collectors' items that Pandora finds absolutely irresistible. First, a pounds 295 "limited edition" print of the whole FA Cup winning 1997 squad featuring the enlarged portrait and actual signature of Ruud Gullit. Second, a flask of "CFC One" scent "for men and women" to ensure that owner Ken Bates' vision for Chelsea pervades even those most romantic moments. As one of the catalogue's teeshirts declares that "Chelsea women do it better!", can we conclude that they're more fragrant too?

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WASHINGTON WAS not just twittering over the latest batch of Clinton jokes last week. According to one of Pandora's local sources, with Clinton abroad, the American capital was awash with outlandish rumours, many passed along by Democratic Congressmen who fear that they will lose their seats in November's elections. These included one about "seven interns" and, most bizarre of all, one about the "stain" on Monica's dress. By now, apparently most of the city believes that some sort of body fluid was discovered by the FBI laboratory; the donor is still unknown. However, the latest gossip says that the fluid itself tested positive for drug usage. What's next - Jerry Springer for President?

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