Pandora

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The Independent Culture
REMEMBER WHEN Sinn Fein and the IRA raised funds from impassioned Irish-American zealots? How quickly the world turns. A recent report on the travel of US Congressmen reveals that two American members of the House of Representatives - Richard Neal (Democrat, Massachusetts) and Peter King (Republican, New York) - were given $4,045 by Sinn Fein to fly to Dublin and give speeches encouraging votes in favour of the recent peace referendum.

In the States, politicians' trips like this are called "junkets" and viewed as a mildly obnoxious way to curry political favour. However, Pandora is sure that the Irish people were delighted to hear the views of a couple of American congressmen on a subject about which they undoubtedly know so much.

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HIS BOOK launch party in Soho took place on a chilly, grey Thursday evening last week, but John Diamond's courage and humour lit up the interior of the Groucho Club like a bonfire on a summer beach. Just a few months after undergoing radical surgery for cancer of the tongue, the broadcaster and columnist Diamond stood in front of a room full of British media mandarins, plus his doctors and nurses, to deliver, in his mending voice, a most eloquent, funny and moving speech. His friends were particularly pleased to see Diamond's battling spirits undaunted as he delivered a gibe at a supercilious Evening Standard book critic. He was warmly introduced by Melvyn Bragg, who has hailed Diamond's Because Cowards Get Cancer Too as "the best book of his generation". Later, when someone congratulated Bragg on his imminent elevation to the peerage, Pandora could not help overhearing the ardent Labour supporter reply, "It's rubbish, but it's nice rubbish."

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TAKE HEART, British women, even though it's a World Cup summer, you'll never walk alone. Your French sisters are apparently suffering from football widowhood in equal degree. The famous can-can showcase Folies Bergeres has, for the first time in 130 years, introduced male strippers into its programme. "The World Cup is the time when women will be looking for a good time while their menfolk are stuck in front of their TV screens," said Frank Peyrinaud of the Folies Bergeres. "This cabaret has always been the temple of women. But this time they're in the audience rather than on stage." According to a survey by France's Elle magazine, 26 per cent of French women will go to see male strippers during the Cup. And 2 per cent admitted considering hiring a male escort.

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RUSSIAN CONSERVATIVE General Lebed is the subject of a new book by former Tory MP Harold Elletson, but most of the talk at his book launch party last week was about the Tory campaign for Mayor of London. Conservatives in attendance included Lord Cranborne, Norman Lamont, Steven Norris, Peter Ainsworth, Richard Spring and Michael Fabricant. Pandora gathered that Steven Norris's Tory candidacy is fast gaining altitude, while embattled Jeffrey Archer seems to be in a nosedive. In his speech, author Elletson said, "We have all been asked to help flog Jeffrey Archer's books at one point, which is rather embarrassing. I'm now inviting you to help out- sell him". Indeed, candidate Norris arrived in full campaign mode, with his infant son by his mistress Emma Courtney swaddled in his arms, and was heard to exclaim, "Politicians are shameless, aren't they?".

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THREE THOUSAND delegates and journalists attending the EU summit meeting in Cardiff this week will receive a free, expensively produced book entitled Corporate Wales worth pounds 25. The promotional objectives behind this gift are, of course, self-evident. What is less apparent is why the book was published by a Scottish company: Johnstone Media Ltd of Edinburgh.

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