Pandora

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The Independent Culture
WHICH IS London's most bankable restaurant? Which chef would the metropolitan glitterati most want to come round and cater chez eux? A glittering dinner at the Berkeley in Mayfair this week provides pointers. Philanthropic types from the arts, politics, media and business gathered there to raise fundage for Leuka 2000, the Lord Mayor's Charity appeal. Guests at the pounds 300-per-plate jamboree - including Peter Blake, Ed Victor, Chris Patten, Nicola Horlick, Ainsley Harriot (pictured) and Julian Barnes - didn't know which of the stellar cooks on hand would cater their table until the chef's card was plucked from a silver drum. Names in the frame included Albert Roux, the River Cafe's Ruth Rogers and Rose Gray, Shaun Gilmore of Vong, and Giorgio Locatelli of Zafferano.

After the nosh, the auction: each foodmeister had offered his or her services for a private dinner for eight, to be auctioned among the glitterati. The top bid was for Mark Edwards, head chef of Nobu, the chic Japanese eatery attached to the Metropolitan Hotel. He'll be cooking for an anonymous bidder who forked out pounds 4,500 for the pleasure. Philip Howard of The Square was in hot pursuit, snaring pounds 3,200. When all was said and drunk, the bash raised pounds 120,000 for new leukaemia-treatment facilities at Hammersmith Hospital. Is this doing good by eating well?

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A SPLIT is developing between the British and American Lockerbie victims' families. The Brits are holding out for justice. But one faction within the American group is looking at pecuniary alternatives. Substantial Libyan assets are frozen in the US, and lawyers advising some of the families have told them that bringing the bombers to justice might eliminate their opportunities to litigate. Under proposals currently on the table, sanctions would be lifted for the duration of the trial, leaving the Libyans free to move their money offshore. No one would dispute the bereaveds' right to bring this sorry 10-year saga to a resolution. But let's hope that American lawyers' obsession with damages won't deprive the families of their long-awaited chance for closure.

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JERRY HALL is slow-playing her divorce from Mick Jagger. Word is that she's trimmed her bold bid for half of his pounds 100m estate to a modest pounds 10m - and may eventually elect to stay hitched. Her sister's brush with cancer, say the usual suspects, has put Jagger's tomcatting into perspective.

Meanwhile, here is the latest heinous tactic practised by upscale couples heading for Splitsville: an American female disenchanted with her rich spouse registered his surname as an Internet domain name - and then sold it back to him through a third party. It's enough to make a lawyer blush.

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SCOTT CHISHOLM'S Scambusters slot on Talk Radio takes a harsh, Roger Cook-style stance against companies who have short-changed their customers. But one such stunt seems to have exploded in the Kelvin MacKenzie minion's face. A surprised guest was recently invited on to the show at 50 minutes' notice, necessitating an expensive 10-mile white-knuckle taxi ride through rush-hour London. A Talk Radio employee reassured the jaw-for-hire that the cab's cost would be added to the appearance fee. A few weeks later the guest received a cheque from the station for the princely sum of pounds 5. To whom might one complain about such cavalier treatment? Scambusters?

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THE PRODUCER pushing parliamentarians to watch Four Carrier Bags and a Buggy, an advocacy video about teen pregnancy? One David Newborn.

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IS THIS The Independent's youngest reader? Seven-year-old Nicholas Shakir, from Huddersfield, wrote in last week. The eagle-eyed Shakir noticed that his local football team was listed as lining up against Arsenal, when in fact the Gunners were scheduled to play Derby. "I will write back," warns the precocious Shakir in a crisp PS, "if I see one more mistake." Mindful of our younger readers' scrutiny, Pandora will immediately put her hands up to a glitch. A "Royal" mysteriously appeared yesterday where none was warranted: the bank getting into bed with questionable televangelist Pat Robinson is the Bank of Scotland. No Royal. No problem. And Master Shakir - no more chastisement, please.

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