Are you ready for the shock of the news?

'The Virgin Mary said she was not convinced that Mr Venables was the best man for the job'
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The Independent Online

How closely do you follow the news? When the conversation turns Madonna, Milosevic or mini tornadoes in Bognor Regis, how well can you keep up? Well, here's an easy way to find out. Today I am bringing you six recent news stories, of which one is fabricated and totally untrue. All you have to do is read the news items and then say which one you think is false.

How closely do you follow the news? When the conversation turns Madonna, Milosevic or mini tornadoes in Bognor Regis, how well can you keep up? Well, here's an easy way to find out. Today I am bringing you six recent news stories, of which one is fabricated and totally untrue. All you have to do is read the news items and then say which one you think is false.

Alright? Here we go then!

1. In response to the announcement that the Government is training soldiers to act as emergency tanker drivers in case the country is brought to a halt again, fuel-tax protesters have been secretly training as soldiers to make their next protest more effective. Few details have been forthcoming from their training camp, but the exercises seem to involve the use of barbed wire, immobilisation of police vehicles and unarmed combat against Ministry spokesmen. "It's a man's life in Her Majesty's farmers," says spokesman Major (formerly dairy farmer) Roger Williams.

2. Following recent flood alerts in southern England, the government of Bangladesh has offered relief to the worst-affected areas. Was this a serious offer? "No, of course not," said a Bangladeshi spokesman. "In our country we have had thousands of villages swept away and hundreds of lives lost through floods, so when we read that people in Britain have lost carpets and had mud in their kitchens, we wanted to help to get things in proportion. It's about time international diplomacy became a home for civilised irony again."

3. Thousands of pilgrims have poured into the small village in Portugal where two children at the weekend claimed that the Virgin Mary appeared to them in a vision and revealed to them the name of the next England football manager. Unfortunately, they have forgotten it. Both the children are convinced that it was a foreign name, but it has been pointed out that all names are foreign to the Portuguese, except, of course, for Portuguese names. The older child, a boy, knew enough about football to ask the Virgin Mary if Terry Venables was being considered. She said that his name had come into the frame, but that she personally had had business dealings with Mr Venables and was not convinced that he was the best man for the job. After recommending the children to put a few escudos on Arsenal for the English title, she faded from view.

4. The Government has taken to heart criticisms of its plans to build thousands of rural homes in flood plains. Instead of relocating the homes, however, they have decided to redesign them. "Research reveals," says a spokesman, "that flood water generally attacks the ground floor first, and much less often reaches the first or second floor. Therefore we are producing a new house in which the ground floor is absolutely empty, like an underpass through which flood water can rush, leaving the rest of the house dry and habitable." Another design under consideration is an ark made of gopher wood, 300 cubits long, which would be big enough to take two of each of our main wildlife species, but it is not thought that mankind has behaved wickedly enough to deserve such a flood just yet.

5. After the publication of Geoffrey Robinson's book, with its controversial material about the loan to Peter Mandelson, his publishers, Michael Joseph, have become worried about the large advance that they paid to Mr Robinson. It is, after all, a loan against future earnings, of the same type as the loan to Mandelson. To avoid any embarrassment, they are now asking Mr Robinson for immediate repayment.

6. A manufacturer of bubble-wrap packaging is being sued for thousands of pounds by the Royal Mail. A firm called Bubble Light has devised a way of filling the bubbles with helium, thus making the bubble wrap lighter than air, considerably reducing the weight of any parcel wrapped in it. The Royal Mail claims that, by reducing postage costs, the firm is defrauding it of its rightful revenue. It further claims that some parcels have become so light that they float around the sorting rooms, causing minor damage to unwary postmen.

Well? Did you spot that the last item was in fact fictitious! Well done!Admittedly, all the others were as well, but that's journalism for you.

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