Hard fact or tall story?

'Just how good are you at keeping up with the news? One of these five stories has been made up. Can you spot which one it is?'
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The Independent Online

How good are you at keeping a sharp eye on the news? For instance, since the brouhaha between Spain and Morocco, have you got out an atlas to find out where Perejil Island is? Have you bothered to locate Ceuta and Melilla? Have you even bothered to locate Morocco? Or, to put it another way, have you bothered to look "brouhaha" up in the dictionary?

How good are you at keeping a sharp eye on the news? For instance, since the brouhaha between Spain and Morocco, have you got out an atlas to find out where Perejil Island is? Have you bothered to locate Ceuta and Melilla? Have you even bothered to locate Morocco? Or, to put it another way, have you bothered to look "brouhaha" up in the dictionary?

If your answer to all these questions was No, or Yes, or a sardonic laugh, you are equally welcome to take our "Just How Good Are You At Keeping Up With The News?" test. All you have to do is read the following news stories, which have been taken from the past week's news. There is a catch, however. One of the stories has been made up, and is totally fictitious. Can you spot which one it is?

Ready? Here we go!

1. The Ministry of Defence has secretly been perfecting its new weapon, which is an artificial island. It looks like a deserted rock, about 40 yards long, and it can be towed into position in enemy waters, or the territorial waters of a friendly rival, left there until needed and then occupied by British forces and claimed as British territory. It is easy to anchor, will not capsize, and is rot-resistant. Grass can be grown on it, but its main offensive advantage is that it contains secret arms and food caches, which only the occupants would know about.

The MoD says that even if it is never used in warfare, it will be in heavy demand from TV companies making new programmes about people surviving on islands.

2. The Plain Jane Institute in London is the only beauty salon in existence that claims to take away your beauty. The idea is that many women feel at risk at night, or in deserted areas, and that if they can safely look unattractive, they will run much less risk of attracting unwanted male attention.

"It's a very real problem for many ladies," says Plain Jane's boss, Aleutia Jones. "All women's instincts are for prettification. It goes terribly against the grain to look plain. We girls have to be taught how to do it. It's no problem for men, of course. Men have a gift for looking slobbish. Look at the couples in almost any restaurant, and you will notice that all the girls have made an effort to dress up, while all the men have made an effort to be as relaxed as possible, which means wearing dreary and unsuitable clothes. So a girl has to be taught how to dress down, and to fight against the make-up urge. That's what we do at Plain Jane. And none of our customers has ever been attacked in the street."

3. Angered by the collapse of Enron and other companies, which is reckoned to have damaged the United States more than 11 September did, President Bush is due to announce an all-out campaign against accountants. His "war on error", as he will dub it, will give American forces extraordinary powers to stop and examine, and, if necessary, exterminate anyone guilty of auditing. An aide says: "This time next year, the person most at risk in the world will be any Iraqi in the accountancy business".

4. George Lewis, an English football supporter, has just arrived in Japan with six mates looking for World Cup action. They are a month late because the charter bus they came in broke down several times and eventually left them stranded in Iran. They were detained there, but escaped and made their way on foot through Afghanistan, to Pakistan, and thence by many adventures to Japan. On learning that the competition was over, they started drinking, and have been arrested for rowdy behaviour. It is, say Japanese police, the first case of the much-dreaded British hooliganism – and it took place a month after the World Cup had finished!

"It is like the incidents sometimes reported in British press," said a Japanese police spokesman, "of Japanese soldiers coming out of the jungle and asking if the war is over! Of course, this cannot happen again, as soldiers will by now all be dead."

5. A Japanese man has emerged from the jungle in Bataan, asking if the war is over yet. He is the son of a Japanese soldier who obeyed orders to hide in 1944, and waited for further orders ever afterwards. The father died in 1986, but not before raising a family, and training them never to surrender. Mr Endo Kuyabi, who is 30 years old, said he was surrendering now because his mother had kicked him out of their jungle home and told him to get a job.

Well? Did you spot that the story about Bush's "war on error" was a load of hooey? Well done!

Mark you, all the other stories were complete fiction as well. Can't trust anything in the papers these days, can you? It makes you want to weep sometimes.

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