Miles Kington: Sharks, sandcastles, and a new role for the Special One

They hate to miss the chance of giving the star role to Alan Alda, who many people think is the spitting image of Jose Mourinho
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The Independent Online

It's that moment you've been waiting for again, when I challenge you to see how good you are at keeping up with the news! It's quite simple. I bring you a handful of recent news stories, of which only one is genuine. All the rest have been dreamt up for us by ex-BBC personnel who, till recently, worked for the corporation, dreaming up TV competitions which could be won by BBC employees masquerading as viewers. What you have to do is read them all, then see if you can use your skill and judgement to pick out the genuine story from the false ones. Ready? Let's go!

1. It turns out that if you go on the beach in the USA, sharks are not the most dangerous hazards you will encounter. The title for that is proudly held by sandcastles. It is not so much a question of people being killed by sandcastles falling on them, as being killed when they dig a large hole to get the material wherewith to build a sandcastle. With certain textures and consistencies of sand, there is a natural tendency for the hole to collapse inwards and take the unsuspecting castle builder with it.

Dr Bradley Maron of Harvard Medical School says: "Typically, victims become completely submerged in the sand, leaving virtually no evidence of the hole or the victim."

Since 1990, 12 people are known to have been shark victims on American beaches. The corresponding figure for sandcastle victims in the same period is 16.

2. A member of the Kophot indigenous tribe of northern Canada, one of the smaller Inuit family branches, has brought shame on his community with false claims to linguistic uniqueness. Lal Pintap, 23, had noticed that Western newspapers were fascinated by disappearing languages, and that people who were the last living speakers of a certain language exerted a special fascination over journalists.

Accordingly, he contacted the media and claimed to be the last man alive who spoke Chinquit, an Inuit dialect thought to be extinct. It now turns out that he is a run-of-the-mill member of an Inuit tribe whose language is still spoken by at least 100 people in the world, and there is therefore hardly anything unusual about him at all. Unfortunately, he has already spent all the money given to him by a generous newspaper contract and has gone on the run.

"He won't get far," says one of his community. "After all, we are the only people who can understand him."

3. One of the reasons why Jose Mourinho does not seem too upset by his dismissal as Chelsea manager is that he has a lucrative film contract lined up, for Hollywood to make his life story. Not that Hollywood thinks anyone in America will be interested in a football yarn, but they hate to miss the chance of giving the star role to Alan Alda, who many people think is the spitting image of Jose Mourinho. Alan Alda has already expressed great interest; he says that nobody in American sport dresses half as well as Mourinho, or looks half as sexy.

4. Recently, Professor Graham Kaley, a renowned biophysicist, and his wife Ruth, also a distinguished scientist, went away for a long weekend, leaving the house in the charge of their only son, Tom, a theology student aged 19.

It was the chance Tom had been waiting for. For 19 years he had been living in a house dominated by unbelievable clutter and unsorted paperwork, and undusted to boot. During his parents' absence, he invited in a firm of cleaners to sort the whole place out drastically and make it fit to be lived in. They may well have gone too far, because the parents are now suing their son for the damage caused to their scholarly research and to their archives, which they claim are now hopelessly tidy and useless.

"Why can't he get a life like other teenagers?" they want to know.

Well? Did you think it was the story about sandcastles which was true? And did you then think, Oh, no, it can't be! But you were right first time. Sandcastles it is. Another fierce test coming soon. Keep reading those trashy news items!

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