Pandora

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Vanity Publishing

THE cover of the latest issue of Vanity Fair screams "The German Assault On US Publishing". Pandora was amused. Is Vanity Fair owned by Si Newhouse, the same American billionaire who sold off Random House last March for $1.4 billion to the Germans at Bertelsmann AG? Yes indeed, but the VF article devotes only a few lines to the Random House sale while concentrating on Bertelsmann's much smaller German rival Dieter von Holtzbrinck, owner of UK publishers Macmillan, several US publishers and Scientific American magazine. The VF article contains fascinating ironies, including a quote from Holtzbrinck's corporate spokesman that slags off Bertelsmann as being "a very money-minded company" as opposed to Holtzbrinck's "cultural interest in protecting literature". So exactly what was Si Newhouse protecting when he "surrendered" to the "German assault" and made a fortune selling Random House - a corporation that includes venerable British publishing names like Jonathan Cape, The Bodley Head and Chatto & Windus?

John's Bull

PUTTING his tastebuds on the front line, Junior Defence Minister John Spellar asked an MoD chef to whip up a very private beef lunch for him a week ago. The meat was drawn from frozen EU intervention stocks, which the Government is keen to purchase to feed our troops. Supposedly untainted by "mad cow" disease, intervention beef stores are maintained by the EU to support price levels. Bulk frozen beef is apparently hard to find in Britain; the MOD buys huge quantities from Argentina. But Pandora wonders if the squaddies will accept their British steaks as completely safe and CJD-free? Oh well, John Spellar found the bull delicious.

Night and Day?

BLACK and white? Hot and cold? Pandora cannot find a metaphor to adequately portray the distinct contrast between two recently-resigned Whitehall PR flacks. Andy Wood, the former Northern Irish Office public relations officer, wasted no time after his departure before selling his attack on Mo Mowlam to the Sunday Times. Meanwhile, Sheila Thompson, who resigned from Lord Irvine's service recently, has turned down several fat tabloid offers to savage Derry.

Home Alone

THE only British pilot to fly with the Israeli air force in their 1947 war for independence, Gordon Levett, 77, returned to celebrate Israel's 50th anniversary last week. The ex-RAF WWII squadron leader, who is a gentile, had flown German-designed Israeli Messerschmitts on bombing missions with a squadron that contained today's Israeli President Ezer Weizman. "I still feel more at home here walking down Ben-Gurion Street," Levett told the New York Times, "than I do in England walking down Piccadilly. I know why. In a tiny way, I helped build this country."

Harriet's Hint

IN KEEPING with the Government's obsession with "presentation", Harriet Harman has put her foot down about a mailing to 500,000 single mothers set for June 15th. Harriet is concerned that her plea to join the "New Deal for Lone Parents" will be ignored if it arrives in the usual brown Government wrapper. Thus the official letters will be in lilac envelopes.

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