Can you spot the fake news story?

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The Independent Online

It's time to stand up and be counted again. It's that time of the month when I test you on your knowledge of the news.

It's time to stand up and be counted again. It's that time of the month when I test you on your knowledge of the news.

Here's how it works. I bring you four recent news stories, one of which is absolutely fake, being made up by me. All you have to do is furrow your brow and then spot which one is the false story.

OK? Let's bring on the stories, then!

1. Trouble is brewing between the Italian Mafia and the Russian mafia.

Apparently the Italians are sore that their traditional name of "Mafia" is being used by the network of Russian gangsters who sport that name.

"Why can't these Russian thugs invent their own name?" demands Mafia lawyer Giuliano Trentini. "If the Russian underworld is so clever and so rich, surely they can do their own branding and marketing? It took us hundred of years to come up with the name Mafia and perfect the image. This is blatant encroachment of copyright."

Do they intend to sue the Russians for this breach ?

"No," admits Trentini. "But we are going to put them out of business, by killing them one by one."

The Italians have meanwhile given the Russians 30 days to come up with another name, if only the Russian equivalent of "Cosa Nostra". The Russians say that any organisation willing to call itself "Our Thing" is in no position to lecture other people about thinking up interesting brand names.

2. London policemen who refuse to wear guns on duty are now being issued with table legs.

"We already know from experience that they are very hard to tell from guns," says a police spokesman, "and they can be lethal if used properly. Let's not condemn the experiment before we've tried it."

3. A remote lighthouse off the coast of Finland may be granted independence and become the latest member nation to join the UN.

The Finnish government had declared the lighthouse, on the small island of Jorsal, to be surplus to requirements, and had decommissioned it. The lighthousekeepers, who had been there for 10 years, refused to leave. They then found that, by a bureaucratic error, the Finnish government had not only decommissioned the lighthouse, they had also abandoned the island as Finnish territory. The lighthousekeepers claimed possession of the island and declared independence for it. Most international lawyers seem to think they are well within their rights.

The next step is to hold a referendum on independence (in which only the two lighthousekeepers can vote) and, if they get a Yes vote, to hold a competition for a new national anthem.

4. Archaeologists have been astounded to find some items of British mail which are apparently more than 90,000 years old. Buried in chalk deposits in East Sussex, a batch of Victorian postcards has been excavated, all still legible and all dating from 1893.

"That's quite old," says Professor Ernest Grail, who is in charge of the dig," but at the depth we found them they should have been nearly 100,000 years older. We are faced with three conflicting theories. One, that primitive man had a fully working postal network. Two, that a time traveller was able to return from the Victorian era to the earliest times and come back again, and, when he re-embarked, left some mail behind by mistake. Three, that some lazy sod of a Victorian postman decided to bury the contents of his mailbag rather than deliver them. Mark you, he would have needed a 20,000 horsepower steam digger to get that deep ... We are baffled."

Well? Did you spot that the one about the Finnish lighthouse was a load of hooey? And, indeed, that all the others were as well?

If that doesn't tell you something about the modern media, then nothing will.