It must be true, it was in the papers . . . wasn't it?

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The Independent Online
HOW GOOD are you at keeping up with the news? Well, there's an easy way to find out. Today I am bringing you seven 'news' stories, and all you have to do is say which ones are real, and which ones have been made up . . .

1. Apart from being issued as a book, Margaret Thatcher's memoirs are being issued by HarperCollins in the form of a floppy disk. The point of this is that it can be perpetually updated by Thatcher, not only to include things she has suddenly remembered from her past, but to record her fresh daily thoughts on things as they happen. Already this week her floppy disk memoirs have been amended to include her glowing thoughts on Michael Portillo, her gloomy thoughts on Clinton, her instructions on how to end the war in Bosnia, and her tactics for beating San Marino by more than seven goals. The de luxe floppy disk also gets you daily recipes as used at No 10, and improve-your-golf tips from Denis Thatcher.

2. In the wake of the collapse of the recent case against the West Midlands police officers, on the grounds, inter alia, that all that pre-publicity would make it impossible to find a neutral jury, Conservative Central Office believes it has found a way of staying in office in perpetuity. The plan is that if Labour (or anyone else) ever wins a general election, the Tories couEld claim that, with so much pre-election publicity and propaganTHER write errorda, it was impossible for the public to reach a decision fairly, and the result of the election should be set aside. If the Tories win, the machinery need not be set in motion.

3. A dog in America has spent the last two years on death row. Taro, who belongs to a family in Haworth, New Jersey, was ordered to be destroyed in 1991 after it had apparently attacked a girl, but the family has relentlessly used every appeal possible to stay the execution. So far they have managed to keep the dog alive but have been unable to secure its release from behind bars, where it has been for more than three years. Their only hope now is to persuade the state governor to issue a pardon. Total cost of legal fees and keeping the dog behind bars so far: dollars 100,000.

4. A man in the north of England was made bankrupt by a cashpoint machine two weeks ago. When 24-year-old Norman Wakely went to withdraw pounds 30 from his local NatWest machine, it coughed up pounds 3,000 in error. As this exceeded his personal borrowing limit, machinery was automatically set in motion to have him declared bankrupt, and the bailiffs went round to seize his goods and chattels at the very moment he was queueing at the bank to return the unwanted pounds 2,970.

5. After the Iraqi football team made a poor start in their Asian World Cup qualifying group, Saddam Hussein stepped in personally, fired their manager and put his own son in charge instead. His son fired the coach and put in a new one, who was not related to Saddam. The team is still bottom of the group, with no points.

6. In the wake of Michael Howard's insistence that 'prison works]', a group of prisoners, all of whom are innocent of the charges for which they have been imprisoned, has combined to bring a case against him for 'unfair sequestration'. If their case succeeds, and Mr Howard is found guilty, he could very well be sent to prison. Once behind bars, it is argued, Mr Howard would be in the best possible place because, if his own reasoning is to be believed, he could do no further harm to the British legal system.

7. A German tourist agency is taking the city of Bath to court, on the grounds that its chosen appellation of Bath Spa is misleading under the Trade Descriptions Act. Owing to the inactivity and apathy of Bath City Council, the spa facilities have been closed to the public for many a year, and plans to reopen them are in an advanced stage of stagnation.

'In Germany, if a place is called Bad something, that is to say bath, it must by law be a healthy watering place which one can visit for the waters,' said a German lawyer. 'We thought it would be safe to visit Bath Spa, as both parts of its name mean watering place. How wrong we were] Now we want our money back.'

They are also suing the Bath Spa Hotel and British Rail's Bath Spa station. The Bath Spa Hotel says in its defence that it does have a swimming pool and jacuzzis. British Rail, which has no spa facilities at any station, is said to be seriously considering changing the name of the station to Bath, but cannot get planning permission. The city council has made no comment, as is its normal practice.

Answers: 3 and 5 are true.

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