And the next question for news-watchers: who will believe in the new National Libelry?

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How well do you keep up with the news? Do you think you're as well informed as the next woman? For instance, if you were reading a column in a newspaper and it suddenly challenged you to answer topical quiz questions, would you be woman or even man enough to take the challenge?

Well, here we go!

Because I am issuing you that challenge!

Right here and now!

And having used up my entire week's quota of exclamation marks, we go straight into the quiz, which is simplicity itself. Here are six news stories, from the last seven days. Which ones are true and which ones are false?

1. The Government privately agrees with Richard Branson that the libel laws in this country are a lottery. This leaves them with two options, either to reform the libel laws or to actually have them run properly as a lottery. They have opted for the latter rather daring choice, and are turning the libel laws into a real lottery to be called the National Libelry, to be run by Branson himself.

The idea of the National Libelry is that anyone will be able to sue anyone else for libel on a weekly basis, as long as they all put some money into a kitty, which on a nationwide basis will add up to millions of pounds. The winners will be drawn by lot in a grand ceremony. "It will make libel a lot more fun than it has been up to now," says Branson. "It will be a complete matter of chance who wins their libel suit and who loses, which is exactly the way it's always been, but from now on at least good causes will benefit as well."

2. We know that Tony Blair has forbidden his cabinet ministers to attend the World Cup unless it is part of their work, such as Jack Straw's mission to inspect security, but it now turns out that Harriet Harman intends to go, to inspect the problems of footballer's families left behind in a one-parent situation, Frank Dobson is going there monitor the health kits carried by physios, Chris Smith wishes to go there to inspect the aesthetics of stadium design, Clare Short is going there establish which Third World teams need foreign aid - in brief, everyone in the Cabinet has an excuse for going. The only member of the Cabinet who is not going is Mo Mowlam, not because the World Cup will teach her nothing about Northern Ireland, but because football bores her. Her place is being taken by Robin Cook's partner, who will be doing some secretarial work for Mr Cook.

3. Fresh evidence has established almost beyond doubt that the famous Impressionist painter Paul Gauguin was a woman. It was impossible for women painters to attain fame and fortune in the 19th century, so Paulette Gauguin, as she was christened, took on a male name and persona in the same way that George Eliot and Georges Sand did. When the deception was in danger of being discovered, Paulette Gauguin fled to the South Seas, where it was easier to practise gender deception on the natives.

4. The real reason that Arthur C. Clarke refused to accept a knighthood from Prince Charles was nothing to do with his own private life - it was in protest against the private life of Prince Charles himself, a self- confessed adulterer. Graciously, he agreed to allow his own private life to be blackened as a cover-up for his very real disapproval of Prince Charles. Meanwhile, the next planned recipient of a British knighthood, Bob Hope, hopes to accept his title from Prince Charles while entertaining US troops in the next Gulf War. He was too ill to go out and entertain the troops in the last Gulf War, the first war he has missed since the Battle of Wounded Knee. Some White House sources say that the sole reason for the resumption of Gulf War hostilities would be to give Bob Hope a last chance to get back to war.

5. There is a secret controversy about whether Princess Diana's picture should be on banknotes in future, in replacement of the Queen's face. Tony Blair is very much in favour of this move, which he sees as part of his mission to give economics a softer, more appealing image, and also to cash in on Princess Diana's enduring appeal, but the Queen takes a different view. "Over my dead body," she is supposed to have said, to which Downing Street is supposed to have replied: "Well, that's OK - we can wait".

6. John Birt resigned as Director-General of the BBC six months ago in protest against the way the BBC is being run, but it was only reported on BBC TV's 24- hour news, so nobody has heard about it yet.

ANSWER The only true story is the one about Robin Cook, the two Spice Girls and the three false ginger beards.

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