And now, the news...

New al-Qaeda video

Following Thursday's video of Ayman al-Zawahiri, news has emerged that a new al-Qaeda video is to be released shortly. Osama bin Laden is expected to put in an extended personal appearance on the tape, which will offer encouragement to his followers around the world. The tape, provisionally entitled 'Sheikh It All About', will be a fitness and exercise video. According to Usman al-Talib al-Jihadi, an Iranian follower of bin Laden, many would-be terrorists have been wondering how they can acquire the Sheikh's lean, ascetic physique. 'Rumours that the Sheikh owes his figure to a long-term digestive disorder are utterly false,' al-Talib stated. 'He is a master of meditation and is as fit as when he was 25. And now, by following the advice in this instructive video, his followers can gain the same gaunt, sinister look.' When asked what distribution method would be used, al-Talib said 'We thought about using the Internet, but, you know, the Internet is full of perverts and weirdos these days. So we'll do what we did before the American election, and send it to al-Jazeera in an unmarked envelope. That should get it on every network TV station in the world within 24 hours.' The White House is thought to be preparing a statement in response, which should advocate cycling and a diet of pretzels.

Bush backs 'Intelligent Design'

US President George W Bush has stated publically that he feels the theory known as Intelligent Design should be taught in schools. Speaking at on a visit to an army base close to his Texas ranch, the President spoke out on education. 'I've always said, throughout my presidency, that we should ask, "Is our children learning?", and I feel that in many godless schools up and down this country, they isn't. This is a nation founded on self-evident truths, and I think it's self-evident that everything complicated must have been made that way by someone. I find the theory of evolution complicated, and Charles Darwin made it that way. Intelligent Design, on the other hand, is very simple. You don't even need to read the Bible to understand ID, because it isn't supported by Scripture. So all of our children, even right here in Texas, should be able to understand it." Richard Dawkins, the British biologist and atheist, reacted vigorously to this announcement. 'Here Bush goes again, trying to use his position to advocate the evil of religion. He's no different to the Taliban, you know. Religion is all about blowing things up and opressing people. I know this, because I read it in my own book, "The Bland Watchmaker". Every liberal should agree with me that religion is poison and should be banned.'

Church of England condemns 'gay marriage'

The Church of England will not tolerate practising gay priests registering their relationships when the Civil Partnerships Act comes into effect this autumn. The Archbishop of Canterbury's spokesman, Dr Alexander Ganymede, made the announcement at a press conference in Lambeth Palace. "All gay clergy will be instructed not to register their relationships, and not to tell their bishops the truth about anything. Allowing homosexuals to pledge lifelong fidelity and stability clearly undermines the sacrament of marriage. With this in mind, we expect gay priests to ignore traditional church teaching on chastity, and continue to have multiple illicit flings with their pastoral assistants and curates. And any gay priest who is put forward for the episcopate will be denied this preferment, because he will be unable to express the same level of commitment which heterosexual priests can." Priests will also be forbidden to bless civil partnerships, although gay couples would not be prevented from attending the Eucharist, or other church ceremonies such as pet services, Christingle, or other blessings. As well as these matters, the next meeting of the General Synod will also consider a government request to update the rite for the blessing of a nuclear submarine in line with the proposed replacement for Trident. Roman Catholic priests will not be allowed to participate in civil partnerships, firstly because of the long-standing priestly discipline of celibacy, and secondly because choirboys are generally minors.

Blair denies retirement rumours

Prime Minister Tony Blair has moved to quash rumours that he is planning to withdraw from politics at the end of his third term as PM. Mr Blair is thought to have confirmed that he will cease to be Prime Minister at the projected 2009 general election. Gordon Brown is expected to succeed him as PM in the event of a Labour victory. However, Mr Blair has emphatically stated that he will not be retiring at that point. Although he will probably not take up a post with the European Union or the United Nations, as some have suggested, he does have a clear objective. 'I'm really pleased with the way that the reform of the House of Lords has worked out over the course of New Labour's time in power,' Mr Blair was quoted as saying. 'But I think we still have some way to go in overcoming the old traditions of hereditary privilege. And I especially feel that, as times are changing, it's no longer appropriate that the highest position in the land should be allotted in this way. So we will be replacing the monarchy with one which will be reformed along the same lines as the Lords have been. We will call it the Presidency, and although it's early days yet, I hope to be able to contribute to it in a very real sense.' The news was greeted with approval by the Lord Chancellor, Lord Falconer, who was at university with Mr Blair. 'Hopefully this means my job will be made permanent, and I can get on with bossing people around and looking important, and not have to worry about any of this tedious law stuff any more.'

Egyptian girl's case to go to House of Lords

The House of Lords is to consider the case of Egyptian-born schoolgirl Zuleida Ebygum, who brought legal action against her school in Bedfordshire when it banned her from wearing traditional dress. 15-year-old Zuleida was suspended by the Abdurrahman Community School, Leagrave, when she began coming to school wrapped from head to toe in embalming bandages. Zuleida's family and supporters claimed that the school's action was an infringement of the girl's human rights. The case has been the subject of several court cases already, and has now been taken to the House of Lords as the highest court of appeal. The Ebygum family spokesman, Rashid bin Hamid al-Aswani, said that the use of all-enveloping bandages was one of the oldest documented customs anywhere in the world, and Zuleida's school had no right to interfere in her freedom of expression. A spokesman for the school pointed out that Miss Ebygum had attempted to perform a chemistry practical whilst swathed in her bandages, and had nearly caught fire on her bunsen burner. 'Additionally,' the school's spokesperson continued, 'the school has a very liberal uniform policy, permitting the hijab, the shalwar kameez, yarmulkes, turbans, clogs, and woad. The Ebygum family and their supporters, the Union for Obscure Traditions, must have tried very hard to find something which was outside the policy.' Matrix Chambers lawyer Cherie Booth QC, acting for the family, said 'I expect my husband's government will have to concede defeat in this case, even if Tony's old flatmate is presenting the opposing side. In any case, these fundamentalists are paying my bill, so we can all go for a break in Tuscany when it's over.'